CSB, which operates independently of EPA and oversees national responses to chemical disasters, struggled significantly under the Trump administration, which repeatedly sought to dissolve the board and halt its funding. Lemos became the board’s only member for a time as staffing shortages began to tick up at the agency.
During that time, she courted major controversy. Last year, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) obtained and circulated spending receipts showing Lemos had spent tens of thousands of dollars on expenses including furniture, airfare and hotels. She also issued a board order giving herself authority over CSB’s spending and budget preparation, among other key powers (E&E News PM, May 11, 2021).
In the backdrop of those revelations, CSB has meanwhile been mired in other problems, with the agency struggling to perform its key functions. EPA’s inspector general has repeatedly underscored CSB’s backlog of cases and lack of staff as severe impediments to addressing national chemical disasters. That criticism has drawn attention from lawmakers, who have heavily scrutinized the agency and investigated whether it is meeting its regulatory obligations (E&E Daily, Sept. 30, 2021).