Potential EPA Chemical Safety Head Withdraws

18.12.2017 -

At the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the waters continue choppy, due not least to the many legislative rollback plans announced by current administrator, Scott Pruitt. That the agency is still having a hard time filling positions in various regulatory segments reflects widespread opposition to the Trump administration’s controversial choices.

In the most recent case, Michael Dourson, a former EPA staff member who founded a Cincinnati, Ohio-based nonprofit group called Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment,  last week withdrew his name from consideration as head of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention after it appeared he would not be confirmed by the Senate.

Dourson, who worked for the EPA from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s before founding the agency, has clients in the chemical industry, said to include Dow Chemical, Koch Industries and Chevron. This has led to questions about the objectivity of his risk assessments.

In September, the news agency Associated Press said it had learned that the nominee for the safety assessment job accepted payments for criticizing studies raising concerns about the safety of his clients' products and also supported them in lawsuits involving the products.

Under Pruitt, an appointee of President Donald Trump, Dourson has been serving as a senior adviser to the EPA.  It was initially unclear whether he would continue in that function, which does not require Congressional confirmation.

While the Senate’s environment committee had nodded off on the appointment in October, his chances of being approved by the full chamber looked doomed as the two North Carolina senators – both members of Trump’s Republican Party, which has a one-vote majority – withdrew their support. 

The legislators, Richard Burr and Tom Tillis, said they were unhappy about the potential EPA official’s ties to industry. In particular, they expressed concern about contamination issues along the state’s coast. Chemours and its predecessor DuPont have been accused of illegally discharging fluorinated compounds into the Cape Fear River, a source of municipal drinking water for the coastal city of Wilmington and other nearby communities.

State authorities said tests have shown that discharges of the flurochemical GenX, the replacement for the controversial PFOA (C8) used in production of non-stick coatings,  has contaminated at least eighty-five wells near the company’s plant at Fayetteville.