Donald Trump formally announced Friday that he will nominate Skip Elliott as PHMSA Administrator. Once confirmed by the Senate, Elliott will serve as PHMSA’s chief executive charged with administering federal regulation of natural gas, oil, and other hazardous materials transportation by pipeline and the regulation of multimodal (truck, rail, etc.) transportation of hazardous materials. As PHMSA Administrator, Elliott will have oversight of over 600 employees within the Agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC and five regional offices across the U.S.
Suspected to be Trump’s nominee since last Spring, Elliott has a long background in the rail freight industry and is currently the vice president of public safety, health, environment and security at CSX Transportation. Once Elliott is confirmed by the Senate, PHMSA is likely to move on various initiatives and regulatory matters that were delayed by the Agency’s leadership vacancies. That said, several key leadership positions remain vacant including Chief Counsel and Chief Safety Officer. In addition to Chief Counsel and Chief Safety Officer, the PHMSA Administrator’s senior leadership team includes recently appointed Deputy Administrator, Drue Pearce (a former Alaskan legislator and Federal Coordinator for natural gas projects in Alaska), and Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety, Alan Mayberry, and Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials, William Schoonover.
PHMSA has several significant outstanding Congressional mandates with respect to pipeline safety going back to 2011, including various liquid and gas rulemakings that have been delayed and reconsidered since Trump’s executive orders on deregulation. It is anticipated that once new leadership is in place and up to speed, the Agency will start moving again on its pending rulemakings. Despite leadership vacancies since last Spring, PHMSA audits and enforcement have continued at their typical pace.