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 CollinsPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Real relief from high gas prices The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron 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 TillisGOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting Overnight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' Republicans press Milley over perceived progressive military agenda MORE and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump moves to boost Ted Budd in North Carolina Senate race Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term On The Money — IRS chief calls for reinforcements 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 ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer steps on the gas to move Biden agenda Overnight Health Care — Biden touts drug price push Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote 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 PruittUnderstanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing 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.