Changes on tap at U.S. government Chemical Safety Board

Our take: Sutherland cuts short her board term, joins Norfolk Southern... | ------------

After a briefing in late June, Vanessa Allen Sutherland formally ended her three-year stint as chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).

She described her term on the board as a “fix-it” role for the small independent government agency, which investigates chemically related industrial accidents.

She refused to say exactly why she cut short her five-year board term other than a need for more time for her family.

However, rail transportation company Norfolk Southern announced on June 25 that Sutherland was joining the company as a vice president.

Sutherland took over board leadership in 2015 after a period when CSB was under attack by members of Congress and federal oversight agencies.

U.S. President Barack Obama had called for the resignation of the board’s then leader, whom Sutherland replaced.

CSB stakeholders hoped that Sutherland’s arrival would calm the turbulence and let the agency refocus on what it does best—investigations that go beyond identifying degraded pipes or broken valves to reveal the deeper causes of incidents, such as a plant culture of ignoring safety alerts.

As she departs, however, trouble may again be brewing.

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