US president Joe Biden has nominated Catherine J. K. Sandoval, a Santa Clara University law professor who specializes in energy, communications, antitrust, and contract law, to the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. If confirmed by the Senate, she would bring the board to three of its five members.
Sandoval served as a commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) from 2011 to 2017. As a commissioner, she was part of a team that investigated the root causes of hydrocarbon incidents, such as the natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, and the methane plume released near Los Angeles at Aliso Canyon, according to her resume. She also was involved in other California agency-led hazard investigations that examined process safety, human factors, record-keeping, risk identification and management, and incident response training.
In a statement to C&EN, she stressed that her experience in infrastructure regulation, fact-gathering, root cause analysis and community collaboration would “contribute to the CSB’s mission to promote chemical safety, and protect workers, communities, jobs, investments, and the environment.”
According to the White House, Sandoval was the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. She was also the first Latina selected as a Rhodes Scholar, the first tenured Latina law professor at Santa Clara, and the first Latinx CPUC commissioner.
She earned a BA in Latin American Studies from Yale University, a master of letters in political studies from the University of Oxford, and a JD from Stanford Law School. After law school, she served as a clerk for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This story was updated on June 18, 2022, to correct the number of members the board would have if Catherine J. K. Sandoval were confirmed. It is three, not four, because the chair resigned shortly after Sandoval was nominated.
This story was updated on June 18, 2022, to remove the mention of Sandoval hailing from a trailer park in East Los Angeles, because that background is not pertinent to her professional qualifications.