Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration: Who Is Marie Therese Dominguez?

Sunday, October 18, 2015
Marie Dominguez

Marie Therese Dominguez, an administrator with long government service in Democratic administrations, was named on May 29, 2015, to lead the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The Senate confirmed her on August 5, 2015.


Dominguez, whose nickname is Toi, was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1965, but her family has long roots in New Mexico. She’s a descendant of Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca who came to that area in the early 1500s. She’s also the daughter of Larry Dominguez, a Secret Service agent who was on duty during the March 30, 1981, assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan. Dominguez’s father helped subdue the shooter, John Hinckley.


Dominguez attended Smith College, earning a BA in American studies in 1987. She then went to law school at Villanova, graduating from there in 1992. She worked as an attorney and environmental policy analyst as well as on the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign. She joined the administration, working in the Department of Transportation and in 1996 being named a special assistant to a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. The following year, Dominguez was made Special Assistant to the President and associate director of presidential personnel in the Bill Clinton White House.


In 1998, Dominguez moved over to the Federal Aviation Administration as Deputy Chief of Staff and counsel. One of her projects was working on expansion and noise issues at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank near Los Angeles. In 2000, she moved to the Department of Defense as principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Army Corps of Engineers. Coincidentally, Dominguez’s grandfather was a long-time employee of the Corps of Engineers.


At the end of the Clinton administration, Dominguez moved into the private sector as director of human capital and performance for Resource Consultants, where she worked on workforce and organizational development for public entities. In 2004, she moved over to Fieldworks, a political consulting firm. While she was at Fieldworks, she also was a senior adviser to then-Gov. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and his Forward Together PAC as he contemplated a 2008 run for the White House.


In 2007, Dominguez returned to federal service, this time with the U.S. Postal Service. She was vice president of Government Relations and Public Policy and managed Stamp Services, which is responsible for issuing stamps. As part of that job, she was one of four inventors credited on a patent for a method of authenticating postage stamps.


Dominguez returned to her former job in the Army Corps of Engineers in 2013, which she held upon her nomination for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration post. There has been concern among some that Dominguez is unqualified for the position as she has little experience dealing with pipeline issues — she is basically an unknown in the industry. Her backers counter that she’s a good administrator and has good connections to the White House, which will help in implementing regulations aimed at keeping America’s pipelines from rupturing and exploding and trains carrying crude oil from derailing.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Obama Picks Unknown Quantity to Head Pipeline Safety Agency (by Lisa Song, InsideClimate News)

Official Announcement

Nomination Questionnaire (pdf) Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation 


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