Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. So-and-so builds a career undermining government efforts to protect the public from being harmed by an industry. Then the Trump administration nominates so-and-so to regulate that industry.
Donald Trump has chosen a chemical industry consultant to run EPA’s chemical safety office. At Michael Dourson’s Senate confirmation hearing last week, one senator suggested that he’s “never met a chemical he didn’t like.”
Most confirmation hearings for “undercard” positions at federal agencies don’t draw that much attention from the press or the public. This one was remarkable because of the crowd at the press table. It also drew people to Capitol Hill from communities across the country to sound the alarm about Dr. Dourson’s connections to the chemical industry. The job that Dr. Dourson has been nominated for is uniquely important – in 2016 Congress gave EPA new authorities and tools to protect us from toxic chemicals. The director of that program must be committed to putting public health ahead of the chemical industry.
Before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held its hearing to consider Dourson’s nomination, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families worked with our partners at the Center for Environmental Health to send a letter signed by more than 100 local, state and national groups urging the Senate to reject the nomination.
The day before the hearing, I had the privilege of joining a team of citizen “lobbyists” from Fairbanks AK and Boise ID in meetings with their senators where they talked about toxic contamination in their communities and the impact it’s had on their families’ health. Our five teams included residents of Hoosick Falls NY, whose water has been contaminated with carcinogenic PFOA, and two families from Johnson County, Indiana whose children were among forty-two local childhood cancer cases since 2010, and who are concerned about the environmental factors, including chemicals like TCE, that may be causing these cancers.
PFOA and TCE are two of the chemicals for which Michael Dourson has been involved with developing standards that have underplayed their health hazards.
One of our citizen lobbyists—Trevor Schaefer from Idaho—even has a federal law named after him. His brain cancer at the age of 13 inspired Idaho Senator Mike Crapo to work with Senator Barbara Boxer to sponsor a law to investigate cancer clusters in communities across the U.S. “Trevor’s Law” was adopted in June of 2016 as part the act reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
The EPW committee members raised serious questions about the nomination:
Said Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, “…manipulating science to achieve a predetermined outcome is not what the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention should be about.”
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand noted the Hoosick Falls families who were in the crowded hearing room. “These families are so frightened,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to not know if the water your children are bathed in is safe.”
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will vote on the nomination in the next few weeks. Then the full Senate will then consider it. Please take a few minutes to let your senator know that Michael Dourson is the wrong person for this very important job.