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Chemical Safety Board Chair Katherine Lemos resigns

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Photo: CSB

Washington — Chemical Safety Board Chair and CEO Katherine Lemos has submitted her resignation and will step down July 22, the agency has confirmed.

Lemos has led the board since March 2020, serving as a self-described quorum of one from May of that year until Sylvia Johnson and Steve Owens were sworn in for their five-year terms Feb. 2, filling three of the agency’s five board seats.

Lemos’ June 10 resignation comes just days after President Joe Biden nominated Catherine J.K. Sandoval to serve as a member of CSB. If confirmed, Sandoval would be the third agency member confirmed under the Biden administration.

An appointee of former President Donald Trump, Lemos previously worked as director of programs for Northrop Grumman’s aerospace division, and also held positions at the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

In a resignation letter obtained by Bloomberg and cited in a report published June 11, Lemos wrote: “Recent priorities of the board have eroded my confidence in our ability to focus” on the agency mission.

“As requested by Congress and the Executive Branch, I contributed significantly to restoring the integrity and efficiency of the CSB in meeting its mission,” Lemos wrote in an email to agency staffers posted online by watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This has included increasing integrity of the internal process models; to increasing staff; to increasing transparency of agency actions, decisions, and plans; and to increase the integrity of our mission product.”

 

In contrast, PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse called Lemos’ tenure a “disaster.”

“When finally faced with working with other board members as colleagues, Lemos ignored and tried to intimidate them,” Whitehouse said in a press release leveling multiple accusations against the board chair.

Bruce Walker, Lemos’ senior adviser, also has resigned.

Steve Sallman, director of United Steelworkers’ environmental, health and safety department, told Safety+Health that USW hopes the resignations of Lemos and Walker “will present an opportunity for rebuilding this small but vital agency.”

“During this crucial time, the CSB’s staff as well as its new and future board members will need broad, bipartisan support in Congress,” Sallman said. “Labor and industry stakeholders will also need to continue working with the agency so that together we can make our nation safer from chemical disasters.

“Our union believes that every worker deserves a safe workplace. The CSB’s mission and work are imperative to reaching that goal.”

A consistent target for elimination under the Trump administration, CSB began its mission in 1998.

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