Cynthia Quarterman, a top federal safety regulator, announced that she will step down on October 3rd. Quarterman was administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and oversaw the government's response to a series of railway oil accidents in recent years. Quarterman commended the work her staff and agency but did not indicate why she decided to resign.
As a federal safety regulator, Quarterman and her team attempted to increase safety regulations when needed and eliminate unnecessary rules. "We have both closed regulatory gaps and removed unnecessary regulatory hurdles," she said in an email to her staff, "We have held regulated industries accountable through strengthened oversight and enforcement, but also improved outreach and training to them, the public and the response community."
The agency did not give any additional information about Quarterman's resignation.
In recent years, Quarterman's team and the Obama administration fell under scrutiny for failing to properly regulate crude oil transportation safety guidelines. Earlier this year, the agency, with the help of Quarterman, proposed a new regulation that that would eliminate thousands of railroad tank cars used to transport oil in the United States.
The proposal came after a series of dangerous railway explosions. Last year, three major accidents occurred in the span of seven months, leading to devastating fires and property damage. If successful, the proposal could change the way that crude oil is moved across the United States.
PHMSA's internal watchdog criticized the agency as well, claiming that the agency didn't follow up to make sure that states enforced safety regulations for gas pipelines. In fact, an inspector for the Transportation Department noted that PHMSA's failure in this area led to "undetected safety weaknesses" in regulation programs.
Some PHMSA critics believe these oversights are partially responsible for a number of dangerous (and deadly) natural gas accidents, including a recent New York City gas explosion that caused eight deaths. Although Quarterman and her agency have fallen under scrutiny in recent years, she was once acknowledged as the top oil and natural gas regulatory in the United States.