The White House announced that it has nominated Marie Therese Dominguez as the next PHMSA Administrator, the top position at the Agency. PHMSA has been under the interim leadership of Acting Administrator Timothy Butters since October of last year, when former PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman stepped down. The announcement of a nomination for Quarterman’s permanent replacement comes several weeks after the term of interim Agency leadership allowed under federal law had expired, and on the heels of a plea from several Senators to the Obama administration to nominate Quarterman’s permanent replacement. Dominguez’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
If confirmed, Dominguez would bring a diverse array of experiences to the post. She is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at the Department of Defense (the number 2 post at the Army Corps of Engineers), and her previous experience includes Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy for the United States Postal Service, and various other private and public sector positions. While her early career included brief tenures at FAA and NTSB, notably absent from her resume is experience in hazardous materials transportation or pipeline-specific regulation. Nevertheless, there is already evidence of bi-partisan support for her nomination, which could facilitate quick confirmation.
The next PHMSA head will take on numerous challenges, as the Agency has recently come under fire from Congress and the public alike for its slow pace in making new rules and responding to Congressional, NTSB, and GAO mandates. Last month, the DOT Office of Inspector General announced that it will conduct an audit of PHMSA’s safety programs to assess the Agency’s performance, with particular emphasis on its progress in implementing congressional mandates and recommendations dating back to 2005.
On the same day that the White House announced the Dominguez nomination, it also announced nomination of Sarah Feinberg as head of the Federal Railroad Administration. More information on the two nominees is available here.