December 16, 2021

Senate Confirms New Members of Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

On Dec. 9, the U.S. Senate confirmed two new members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). Sylvia E. Johnson of North Carolina and Stephen A. Owens of Arizona, who were nominated by President Joe Biden in late April, will bring CSB’s board membership to three people: Johnson, Owens, and Chairperson Katherine Lemos. CSB is supposed to comprise five members who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Board members serve fixed terms of five years. Lemos began her term in April 2020 and served as the sole member of CSB from May 2020.

According to a release published by the White House in April, Johnson currently works for the National Education Association’s government relations department, leading the association’s legislative work on the safe reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously worked for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), first as an occupational epidemiologist and then as UAW’s assistant director of legislative affairs. Johnson holds a Master of Science degree in biomedical engineering with a concentration in industrial hygiene from Virginia Commonwealth University.

The White House describes Owens as an attorney in Phoenix, Arizona, who focuses on environmental, safety, and health issues. During 2009–2011, he served as EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Owens was previously director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2003 to 2009.

Lemos issued a brief statement welcoming CSB’s new board members. “Each will bring unique perspectives and knowledge to investigations and final outcomes, to the strategic direction of our agency, and in advancing our advocacy efforts,” she said.

A third nominee to fill an open CSB seat, Jennifer Sass, was recommended for rejection during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in September. Sass is a senior scientist at an environmental nonprofit organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council.