Collins ‘leaning against’ Trump EPA chemical nominee

Collins ‘leaning against’ Trump EPA chemical nominee
© Camille Fine

A third GOP senator says she's "leaning against" approval of President Trump’s controversial nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical safety office.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE (R-Maine) told reporters Thursday that she has not made a final decision on Michael Dourson’s nomination, but “I think it’s safe to say that I am leaning against him.”

Collins’s doubts come a day after North Carolina GOP Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Business, conservative groups slam Trump’s national emergency declaration GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day MORE and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE announced they would vote against Dourson to be the EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention.

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In statements late Wednesday, Burr and Tillis cited a pair of major chemical safety problems in North Carolina — 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. They said Dourson did not seem to be the right person to take on those problems.

Republicans hold 52 of the Senate’s 100 votes. If Collins, Tillis, Burr and all other Democrats and independents vote against Dourson and all other Republicans vote for him, the vote would fail.

“I have a lot of concerns about Mr. Dourson,” Collins told reporters. “But I certainly share the concerns that have been raised by Sen. Burr and Sen. Tillis.”

Collins is one of the most centrist Republican senators, and has voted against a handful of Trump’s nominees that the rest of the GOP has supported.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate MORE (D-W.Va.), who has supported many of Trump’s nominees that other Democrats have opposed, declined to say Thursday whether he would vote for Dourson.

Dourson was already facing some of the strongest opposition of any Trump nominee by Democrats.

He worked for two decades as a chemical toxicologist, where he was paid by companies, states and others to conduct reviews of the harm of certain chemicals.

He frequently concluded that chemicals were less harmful to humans and the environment than what the EPA, universities or states had found.

Dourson has promised to use the best science at the EPA, and Republicans have defended him as a highly qualified choice.

After a contentious hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year, EPA head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Justices take up major case on water rules | Dems probe administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia | Greens sue EPA over toxic paint strippers Environmental groups sue EPA in bid to ban toxic paint strippers Overnight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds MORE hired Dourson as a senior adviser, a rare move for individuals nominated to Senate-confirmed positions before their confirmations.

Tillis said he isn’t sure if Pruitt should keep Dourson on as an adviser or kick him out if he doesn’t get confirmed.

“I’ll leave that up to the EPA to decide,” Tillis said, adding that he is confident Trump can pick an acceptable replacement nominee for the chemical post.