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Daily News Blog

15
Dec

EPA Nominee Withdraws Amid Bipartisan Opposition to His Chemical Industry Ties

(Beyond Pesticides, December 15, 2017) The Trump Administration’s pick to become the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michael Dourson, PhD, has withdrawn his name from consideration after it became increasingly likely he would not pass Senate confirmation due to his deep connections to the chemical industry. In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, Dr. Dourson indicated his move “avoids unnecessarily politicizing the important environmental protection goals of Administrator Pruitt.” Health and environmental groups, including Beyond Pesticides, which launched a campaign against Dr. Dourson’s nomination, are pleased by the withdrawal announcement, but remained deeply concerned with the Trump administration’s continued propensity to promote industry interests and industry-backed nominees over real measures to safeguard environmental health and justice.

Dr. Dourson’s withdrawal was predicated on reports in November that North Carolina’s two Republican Senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, planned to vote against Dourson’s appointment.  North Carolina is the midst of a growing scandal implicating Chemours, a company spun-off from chemical giant DuPont in 2015, in widespread water contamination with the chemical GenX, used to make Teflon and other industrial products. Chemours operates a GenX production plant in Fayetteville, NC, and is accused of regularly dumping the chemical into local rivers, polluting drinking water in a number of communities. Recent tests have found the chemical in the honey of bees in farms two miles away from the GenX production site.

This backdrop helps frame the North Carolina Senators’ decision to oppose Dr. Dourson, who has a long career of supporting use of toxic chemicals produced by multinational corporations. After working for EPA from 1980 to 1994, Dr. Dourson left the agency to found his own consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), which contracted with chemical companies to perform risk assessments and often downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds. Over the years, TERA worked with Dow Chemical Company, Koch Industries Inc., and Chevron Corporation, among others. Dr. Dourson and his research were frequently used in court by chemical companies aiming to dismiss safety claims against their products.

Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, summed up the feeling of those who oppose Dr. Dourson’s appointment. “I sincerely believe he is the wrong person to hold this important position, and it’s become clear that, even with a Republican majority in the Senate, he could not be confirmed,” Senator Carper said to the AP. “Dourson, an individual who has spent most of his career promoting less protective chemical safety standards, had no business overseeing our nation’s chemical safety laws.”

In addition to Senators Burr and Tillis, with all 48 Democratic Senators opposing Dr. Dourson, only one additional Senator was needed to vote him down.

Health and environmental groups like Beyond Pesticides will continue to watchdog the government and alert its members and supporters when the Trump Administration is overreaching or working on behalf of industry. Chemical industry influence in EPA and its Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention is a systemic issue that cuts across presidential administrations. EPA and the chemical industry often act as a “revolving door” whereby individuals move back and forth between jobs. In 2015, Beyond Pesticides alerted the public to pesticide industry umbrella group Croplife America’s hiring a former branch chief within the Office of Pesticide Programs shortly after he left EPA.

The withdrawal of Dr. Dourson shows the power of the public to stop nominees that threaten the integrity of our governmental agencies. Stay in the know on the latest threats to public and environmental health by signing up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts today.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Associated Press

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