Obama nominates candidates for top pipeline, railroad posts

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | July 15, 2015

President Barack Obama has announced nominees for two key administrative posts in pipeline and railroad regulation.

The president nominated Sarah Feinberg, current acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, to head the agency, and Marie Therese Dominguez to lead the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The nominations came after criticism from members of Congress and following accidents involving train derailments, and a pipeline leak along the California coast. Both nominees must be approved by the U.S. Senate.

In nominating Dominguez and Feinberg, Obama said, “It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals will serve the American people as part of this administration. I look forward to working with them.”

Dominguez presently serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civil works at the Department of Defense, a position she has held since 2013.  Prior to that, she served as vice president for government relations and public policy for the U.S. Postal Service from 2007 to 2013. She has also held positions in the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration. Dominguez received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a law degree from the Villanova University School of Law.

Before becoming the acting FRA administrator last January, Feinberg was chief of staff at the DOT from 2013 to 2014.  From 2011 to 2013, she was the policy and crisis communications director at Facebook. She served as director of global communications and business strategy at Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Government from 2010 to 2011. In the White House, Feinberg worked for three years as a special assistant to the president and as a senior advisor to the chief of staff. She has a bachelors degree from Washington and Lee University.

A week before the nominations were announced, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., joined nine other senators in signing a letter to Obama urging him to quickly nominate a PHMSA administrator. The position had been filled by acting administrator Timothy Butters for more than seven months.

During an earlier hearing, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, noted that the Obama administration had missed deadlines for rules on pipeline and rail safety regulations while failing to nominate administrators for FRA and PHMSA.

“Mr. Butters and Ms. Feinberg have been good to work with,” he said. “We appreciate their service and our frustration has nothing to do with either of them personally. But these are very important times and we need certainty in these agencies’ leadership.”