The White House nominated Environmental Defense engineer Lois Epstein to fill one of two vacancies on the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).
The Oct. 19 announcement came days after the resignation of Paul Hill from the CSB.
Hill served as the first chair of CSB until January of this year, when he resigned that post in the midst of a bitter management dispute with his three fellow board members.
Because Hill retained his position on the board, his departure from the chairman''s position did not end the infighting that board member Irv Rosenthal admitted has hurt the CSB''s ability to complete investigation reports.
Before taking her place on the board, Epstein needs to be confirmed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, unless President Clinton makes a "recess appointment," while Congress is in recess for the November elections.
Although a White House spokesperson said no decision on this has yet been made, Epstein said she has already declined a White House offer to make a recess appointment.
"I don''t think a recess appointment makes much sense," said Epstein. "It''s a five-year appointment and there are certain senators who are quite unhappy with recess appointments."
This raises the question of why President Clinton would make a nomination just before the November election that will make it impossible to confirm Epstein before a new Congress is elected.
"We want to give everybody, especially in industry, a chance to get to know her," said one Senate staffer, who observed that Epstein is not a well-known figure. "That''s the value of doing this now."
Epstein said she hopes that the next president will not withdraw her nomination.
Epstein has worked for 12 years at Environmental Defense, a national nonprofit environmental research and advocacy organization with approximately 300,000 members. She also worked for EPA and in the private sector for two years.
Epstein said she has spent much of her time at Environmental Defense working with the petroleum industry on storage tanks, refineries and pipelines.
"I want to continue to work to improve safety in that industry," she said. Thanks to her work on pipeline safety with the National Transportation Safety Board, Epstein said she is accustomed to using a variety of approaches to increase safety: symposia, tracking issues of concern and recommendations to agencies, and education.
"I don''t think there''s just one way to improve safety," said Epstein.
The CSB has no rule making or enforcement authority. Its principal mission is to investigate chemical incidents and make recommendations to rulemaking agencies and Congress.
by James Nash