Two GOP senators oppose Trump’s EPA chemical safety nominee

Two GOP senators oppose Trump’s EPA chemical safety nominee
© Camille Fine

Two Republican senators said Wednesday that they won’t support President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical safety office.

The opposition from North Carolina Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures We are running out of time to protect Dreamers MORE and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSessions argued presidents can obstruct justice in Clinton impeachment trial Trump Jr. to meet with Senate panel amid Russia probe Trump’s Russian winter grows colder with Flynn plea deal MORE puts Michael Dourson’s nomination in danger. If one more Republican votes against him, he likely wouldn’t be confirmed to the post.

Even before Tillis’s and Burr’s opposition, Dourson was one of Trump’s most polarizing nominees. Democrats and environmentalists saw him as a lackey for the chemical industry who, for years, was paid to underplay the harms of various chemicals.

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The opposition from the North Carolina senators, first reported by the Wilmington, N.C., Star News, stems from a pair of major health controversies in the state surrounding water contamination at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the recent discovery of the as-yet-unregulated chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River. The senators do not believe Dourson would be an effective force to protect the victims of those incidents.

“I will not be supporting the nomination of Michael Dourson. With his record and our state’s history of contamination at Camp Lejeune as well as the current Gen X water issues in Wilmington, I am not confident he is the best choice for our country,” Burr said in a statement.

“Over the last several weeks, Sen. Tillis has done his due diligence in reviewing Mr. Dourson’s body of work. Sen. Tillis still has serious concerns about his record and cannot support his nomination,” Tillis’s office said.

Dourson worked at the EPA until 1995. When he left, he started a nonprofit firm to evaluate chemical toxicity, often working for the chemical industry and making conclusions more industry-friendly than states, the EPA or universities.

In 2015, Dourson merged his firm into the University of Cincinnati, where he became part of the faculty, but did similar toxicology assessment work.

Democrats repeatedly hounded him on his history at a contentious hearing last month.

“You’re not just an outlier on this science, you’re outrageous in how far from the mainstream of science you actually are,” said Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNet neutrality supporters predict tough court battle over FCC's repeal plan Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Driverless car bill hits Senate speed bump MORE (D-Mass.). Dourson has defended his work and committed to following sound science at the EPA.

After the hearing, EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating Overnight Energy: Watchdog probes Pruitt speech to mining group | EPA chief promises to let climate scientists present their work | Volkswagen manager gets 7 years for emissions cheating Scott Pruitt's year of environmental destruction MORE hired Dourson as an adviser, bringing criticisms that he was circumventing the confirmation process.

Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, compared to 48 in the Democratic caucus. If all remaining senators stay along party lines, Vice President Pence could break a 50-50 tie.

The Environment and Public Works Committee voted late last month along party lines in favor of Dourson.