Flouting Senate, EPA Chief Installs Chemical Safety Nominee as Senior Advisor
WASHINGTON – Defying the Senate’s authority to confirm presidential nominees, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has installed Michael Dourson, President Trump’s controversial choice to run the agency’s chemical safety office, as a senior advisor. EWG President Ken Cook said it was more proof of Pruitt’s contempt for procedure and transparency.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has the authority to vet all EPA political nominees before they are confirmed by the full Senate, has not yet voted on Dourson’s nomination, E&E News reported today. The committee vote was scheduled for today, but was abruptly cancelled after the EPA acknowledged that Dourson is already on the job.
It is not unprecedented to bring presidential nominees into agencies before confirmation, but Dourson is a particularly divisive nominee. Organizations representing millions of Americans have expressed concern or opposition to the nomination, citing Dourson’s history of working on behalf of the chemical industry to weaken regulations.
“The only thing Michael Dourson should be doing inside EPA headquarters before he’s confirmed is visiting as a tourist,” Cook said. “Scott Pruitt clearly sees the established role of Senate oversight on nominees as a bothersome technicality he can disregard at will. This is more proof of his contempt for transparency and the longstanding rules of checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches.”
Dourson has spent more than two decades as a scientist-for-hire for major chemical and pesticide companies, including Dow, Monsanto and Koch Industries, and the lobbying groups CropLife America and the American Chemistry Council, among others.
He and his consulting firm Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, or TERA, have repeatedly argued that the safe exposure levels to highly toxic chemicals are hundreds or thousands of times higher than what independent scientists and the EPA consider safe. As head of the office of chemical safety, he would make crucial decisions on many chemicals he has defended for the industry.
“Whether Republican or Democrat, senators should not stand for this blatant end-run around their authority,” said Cook. “Dourson has been nominated for a very powerful role to protect the public from toxic chemicals, and the decision of whether he’s fit for the job rests not with Scott Pruitt, but with the 100 senators elected by the American people.”