A Trump nominee who was all but in the pocket of the chemical companies he was set to regulate at the EPA pulled off the rare feat of convincing three Republican senators he was unfit for the position. Before he could be rejected by the full Senate, Michael Dourson, a former chemical industry consultant, withdrew his nomination to be the EPA’s chemical safety chief on Wednesday.
After leaving the EPA in 1995, Dourson led an independent consulting nonprofit, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, where he essentially tailored research to the needs of chemical companies and repeatedly downplayed chemical toxicity. On Wednesday, The New York Times obtained a cache of emails through Greenpeace that showed Dourson’s close ties with companies whose products the EPA has proposed banning in its next review cycle:
The emails detail an unusually close relationship with the American Chemistry Council and with individual companies whose products are scheduled for priority review by the E.P.A., among them trichloroethylene, known as TCE, a volatile organic compound widely used in industrial and commercial processes, and flame retardants. The E.P.A., citing the significant health hazards of the chemical TCE, which is widely used as a degreasing agent and a spot cleaner on clothing, had proposing banning it.
Dourson’s relationship with chemical producers proved to be so egregious that GOP Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina forcefully opposed his nomination in November. Susan Collins of Maine effectively sunk Dourson’s nomination when she indicated she was also “leaning against him.”
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey offered a surprisingly apt characterization of Dourson’s career during his October confirmation hearing. “What you’ve been doing with your professional career...it almost seems like a scene out of a Disney movie where there’s corporate villains that do harm to our environment,” Booker said, clearly baffled.
Richard Denison, the lead scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, described Dourson’s withdrawal as “good news for the health of American families” in a statement. “He would have undermined public health and damaged the historic chemical safety reforms passed by Congress last year,” Denison said.