Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez have appointed a new Chief Counsel for PHMSA, Teresa A. Gonsalves. Ms. Gonsalves’ immediately prior experience is with the Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Postal Service. Administrator Dominguez, who has been in her current position for less than a year, also came from prior experience with the U.S. Postal Service.
Deputy Chief Counsel Vasiliki (Vas) Tsaganos has been serving as Acting Chief Counsel since Vanessa Allen Sutherland left the Agency in 2015 to head the Chemical Safety Board. Vas and James (Jim) Pates, Assistant Chief Counsel for the Pipeline Safety Law Division, have considerable experience with the Agency in working on pipeline and public safety issues.
PHMSA was created in 2006, replacing the prior Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), both of which provided oversight for the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS). OPS was created by Congress in 1970, along with enactment of the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act (HLPSA). In 1994, Congress merged HLPSA with the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968 (NGPSA), to become the Pipeline Safety Act (PSA). PHMSA oversees more than 2.6 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines in the U.S. PHMSA’s pipeline safety regulations to implement the PSA are set forth at 49 C.F.R. Parts 190-199.
With Congress’s reauthorization of the Pipeline Safety Act expected this year, and several significant Agency rulemaking proposals and organizational changes, Administrator Gonsalves will have a full plate of legal issues in her new role as the 5th Chief Counsel since PHMSA was formed in 2006.