President Obama turned to a strong supporter with lengthy experience in pipeline law and regulation to serve as the Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is responsible for protecting the public and the environment when hazardous materials are transported by land, water, or air. This includes almost one million daily shipments of hazardous materials, including 64% of the nation’s petroleum products. Congress created PHMSA in 2004 so there would be a single agency focusing on pipeline and hazardous materials transportation policies and procedures. Quarterman was confirmed by the Senate November 5, 2009.
Born circa 1961 to Bernice and Rudolph Quarterman in Savannah, Georgia, Cynthia Quarterman graduated in 1979 from A. E. Beach High School, where she was crowned “Miss Beach.” She went on to earn a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University in 1983, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1987, where she was Executive Editor of the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. She spent part of 1981 as an Industrial Engineering Intern at American Cyanamid, and the year between college graduation and her first year of law school as a Cost Engineer for IBM Federal Systems in Owego, New York.
After graduating law school, Quarterman worked for a year as an associate at the law firm of Benson & McKay in Kansas City, Missouri, before taking a job in 1989 at Steptoe & Johnson, which is one of the largest firms in Washington, DC.
Following Bill Clinton’s election win in 1992, Quarterman served in various capacities at the Department of the Interior, including as a member of the Office of Surface Mining Interim Management Team and Deputy Director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which oversees the leasing, exploration and resource development on the Nation’s outer continental shelf, including the transportation of hazardous materials by pipeline. She was promoted to MMS Director in 1995, a position she retained until February 1999, when she left public service to return to Steptoe in September.
She became a partner in Steptoe’s energy and natural resources practice, where she represented producers and pipeline companies in matters before the Department of the Interior, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Transportation. One of the companies she represented was Enbridge Energy Partners, an association that would prove awkward after she joined the Obama administration. In July 2010, Enbridge was responsible for a large oil spill in Michigan. When the House of Representatives held hearings about the spill in September, Quarterman, despite being the administration official in charge of pipeline safety, she was forced to recuse herself from testifying because of the conflict of interest.
During the Obama Presidential Transition, Quarterman served on the transition team regarding the Department of Energy. Quarterman has been a member of Editorial Advisory Board for Natural Gas magazine since 2000, and a member of Executive Committee of Institute for Energy Law since 2002.
Quarterman is married to Pantelis Michalopoulos, who is also a partner at Steptoe & Johnson; they have a daughter. A Democrat, between 1995 and 2009 Quarterman contributed $11,149 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $971 to the Democratic National Committee, $750 to President Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, $1,000 to Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign, $2,000 to Senator John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential campaign, and $4,278 to President Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.