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Full Senate vote next step for Chemical Safety Board nominees

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Photo: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Washington — A trio of Chemical Safety Board nominees moved a step closer to confirmation after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced their nominations on Sept. 22.

The committee approved the nominations of Sylvia Johnson and Steve Owens by voice vote while voting 10-10 to advance that of Jennifer Sass. The three appointees, nominated April 28 by President Joe Biden, now must be confirmed by the full Senate to join Chair and CEO Katherine Lemos on the board.

Since May 1, 2020, CSB has carried on with only one of its five board seats filled.

Johnson, Owens and Sass defended their qualifications during a July 29 confirmation hearing before the committee’s Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee. Two days earlier, American Chemistry Council President and CEO Chris Jahn sent a letter to Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the respective committee chair and ranking member, questioning the trio’s work experience.

Johnson, Owens and Sass also were asked about reported agency management and staffing issues that have contributed to an investigative backlog.

During the Sept. 22 committee meeting, Capito revisited previous criticism brought against Sass, noting that Sass deleted her Twitter account after the subcommittee hearing, which included questioning related to her prior social media posts. One entry, Capito said, included “deriding the [Environmental Protection Agency] for engaging with the American Chemistry Council about implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act in a transparent manner.”

 

Capito, who recommended Sass’s nomination be rejected, said: “This knee-jerk reaction when confronted with hard questions shows that she’s not the right person for a board committed to transparency.”

A senior scientist at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council for the past 20 years, Sass frequently has provided testimony and scientific briefs to members of Congress and federal advisory committees.

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