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Trick or…Trick? Who’s Behind the Mask at the Trump Environmental Protection Agency?

Cross-posted from We All Live Downstream, the blog of Clean Water Action.

With the possible exception of those stuck in the attic searching for a Halloween costume, we’ve all seen the havoc unleashed by the Trump EPA lately — the proposed rollbacks of commonsense safeguards that protect us from air and water pollution and that restrict exposure to toxic chemicals in our lives. This has real-world impacts, making our communities less safe and harming young children and the most vulnerable among us in particular.

Researchers like Kathryn Rogers at the Silent Spring Institute are on the front lines of this battle, particularly during October, the month when the breast cancer epidemic is in the spotlight. According to Kathryn, “The Environmental Protection Agency is giving less scrutiny to toxic chemicals that are making Americans sick. This is especially concerning for breast cancer, where exposure to environmental chemicals is a key risk factor for the development of disease.”

Given the founding mission of the Environmental Protection Agency, this should not be happening — the “P” is supposed to stand for Protection, not Pile on the Pollution. So how is the Trump Administration able to move this polluter-friendly agenda so quickly?

In part, the answer lies in the leadership staff appointments at EPA who have been plucked from polluting industries to serve under Scott Pruitt, who has cultivated a cozy and deferential relationship with corporate polluters. The nominations for EPA’s top two positions dealing with toxic chemicals are perfect cases in point.

Dr. Nancy Beck: Just last year, Beck represented the American Chemistry Council, the trade group for the chemical industry, as one of their senior advocates. In a nutshell, her job involved advocating for chemical policies to be shaped in ways that benefited the financial interests of the chemical industry. This year, the Trump team nominated and successfully pushed for her appointment as Deputy Assistant Administrator within EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. The “revolving door” between government and industry deposited her in one of the top positions in the Trump EPA regulating her former employers in the chemical industry.

Dr. Michael Dourson: Dourson has been nominated to the Assistant Administrator position in EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention alongside  Beck.  Dourson founded and led an organization (TERA) with a troubling track record of downplaying the health threat from chemicals and is considered a go-to source for hire for the chemical and tobacco industries. As an example, DuPont sought out Dourson’s firm for a recommendation for “safe” levels of exposure for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical made by DuPont that is linked to cancer and other health damage. Dourson’s recommendation turned out to be 1,000 times weaker than the level ultimately determined by the EPA when they later conducted their own assessment.

Last week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted along party lines to approve Dourson’s nomination to the EPA. In other times, Dr. Dourson’s ties to the chemical and tobacco industries would most likely have prevented consideration for this post. Despite the controversial nature of the nomination, and potentially in violation of federal law, Scott Pruitt has been allowing Dourson to serve in an advisory capacity.

But before he is fully confirmed, there will need to be a full vote on the Senate floor. Join us in urging that we #DumpDourson by calling your own Senator and urging a no vote. You can reach them through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Below is a sample message to leave for your Senator:

I’m calling to urge you to vote no on Michael Dourson’s nomination to lead EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He has a record of working hand-in-hand with the chemical industry to undermine public health protections. We need advocates at EPA for health and safety, not someone with this troubling conflict of interest.