Energy & Environment

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 Collins (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 Tillis and Richard Burr 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 Manchin (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 Pruitt 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.

Tags Environmental Protection Agency Joe Manchin Richard Burr Scott Pruitt Susan Collins Thom Tillis
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