Chemical Safety Board chair discusses ‘proactive’ plan to address management concerns
Washington — Faced with boardroom staffing gaps and other management hurdles, Chemical Safety Board Chair and CEO Katherine Lemos says CSB is “addressing our challenges head-on and taking a proactive approach to move our agency forward to meet our mission.”
During a March 5 CSB business meeting, Lemos said some agency staff soon will assume management responsibilities, while incoming board members – when appointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the Senate – “will more vigorously pursue the agency’s mission through technical reviews, stakeholder collaboration and community outreach.”
The short-staffed agency was a frequent target for elimination under the Trump administration, with Lemos, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, describing current operations as “a quorum of one” during a Sept. 2 CSB business meeting. CSB has carried on with only one of its five board seats filled since Kristen Kulinowski stepped down May 1, three months before her five-year term was slated to expire.
In July, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General concluded that various management challenges – including the abundance of board vacancies and unclear policy on board member responsibilities – “will impede the ability of the CSB to function effectively.”
Lemos acknowledged during the most recent meeting that agency policies regarding board member roles and responsibilities “are not in alignment with our enabling legislation,” contending that inefficiency partially stems from the board taking on various administrative activities that ideally are the domain of staff. She anticipates the forthcoming changes will improve CSB’s operations.
In a Bloomberg Law report published March 15, however, former CSB member Manuel Ehrlich, whose term ended in December 2019, was skeptical of what he called “ludicrous” expectations of CSB staff.
“It seems totally unreasonable to me that staff members would be expected to do board members’ jobs,” Ehrlich said in the report. “Whoever heard of the employees of a company sharing the responsibilities of the board?”
Lemos said CSB has hired two new chemical incident investigators during fiscal year 2021 after hiring six in FY 2020. Additionally, she said the agency has closed 26 of the 144 safety recommendations that were open when she joined CSB as chair and CEO in March 2020.