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Opponents of EPA's chemical nominee cite interest conflicts


WASHNGTON, D.C. — The Senate’s 22-member Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPW) will vote in the coming weeks on Michael Dourson, President Donald Trump’s choice to be the nation’s top chemical regulator – a candidate who “has created junk science for industry,” one Democrat committee member charged.

Dourson, 65, has been picked to run the U.S. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), a critical post for the agricultural industry, with the office overseeing the regulation and risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals. A toxicologist, Dourson is professor of the Risk Science Center at the University of Cincinnati, and has come under attack from several organizations including the Environmental Defense Fund and individuals.

Two other organizations, the American Chemical Council (ACC) and the pesticide trade organization CropLife America, have come out in support of the nomination.

“We welcome Dr. Dourson’s nomination,” CropLife states on its website. “His extensive experience in risk assessment and science, both in government and private sector, make him a valuable addition to the office.”

In a confirmation hearing Oct. 9, he came under attack from Sen. Tom Udall, (D-N.M.). “Dr. Dourson has made a career of creating junk science for industry. Instead of draining the swamp, (Trump) has filled it up with some of the swampiest creatures ever, and it keeps getting scarier – Michael Dourson might be the worst yet,” Udall said.

Fellow committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.) said, “We need someone who’s going to be a watchdog, not a lapdog for the special interest chemical industry and other producers of contaminants and substances that can literally kill people, or stunt the growth of children, or make people sick.”

Committee Chair John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) defended the nomination, saying, “Dr. Dourson is an experienced toxicologist who deserves full and fair committee considering, followed by a Senate vote. That should be the case for all nominees for leadership roles at the EPA.”

During the Senate hearing, victims of chemical exposure and their families shared personal accounts of experience with substances they claimed Dourson had helped the chemical industry to defend.

Barrasso is expected soon to announce a date for a committee vote on Dourson’s nomination before sending it to the full Senate for a vote – a timetable that could extend into November before the Congressional Thanksgiving break.

Dourson previously worked at the EPA for more than a decade, leaving in 1994 after working as chief of the pesticides and toxic team that assessed the health risks of exposure to chemicals. The following year he founded a private toxicity evaluation nonprofit organization, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, whose clients included Dow AgroSciences and DuPont.

Responding to media inquiries, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bozman said Dourson is “receiving high accolades from experts across the country. Dr. Dourson is a highly qualified scientist,” she said, citing his several leadership positions and industry awards.

If confirmed, Dourson would join Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of OCSPP Dr. Nancy Beck, who started on April 17 – a  post that did not need Senate confirmation. Her assignment was also met with heavy criticism for her ties to the chemical industry. She joined the EPA after serving as senior director, Regulatory Science Policy for the Division of Regulatory & Technical Affairs at the ACC.

ACC membership includes more than 150 chemical companies that included behemoths like BASF, Dow, DuPont and ExxonMobil.