Trump Nominates New Head of EPA’s Chemical Safety Office

Trump Nominates Region 1 Chief to Lead EPA’s Chemical Safety Office


The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Region 1- New England was nominated to lead the agency’s national Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Alexandra Dunn has been EPA’s administrator in New England for almost a year. She is a lawyer and has been an environmental justice advocate for a long time. She had also worked with state and industry officials as well as residents in Vermont and New Hampshire to deal with drinking water chemical contamination.

She will replace the previous nominee, Michael Dourson, who withdrew his nomination for confirmation in December after several Republican lawmakers stated they would not support his confirmation.  Dourson has close ties to the chemical industry. A professor at  The University of Cincinnati, Dourson founded a non-profit consulting group. Chemical companies used the research produced by Dourson’s consulting group to show that their products were not public health hazards.

Dourson’s critics pointed out the many potential conflicts of interest made him a  bad choice for a post that would require him to administer the review of chemicals coming from companies that were his former clients.

Sens. Richard Burr (GOP) of North Carolina was most alarmed about Dourson’s involvement on a contaminated water case in a military base in the state. He said that he is not confident Dourson is the best choice to head EPA’s Chemical Safety office.

Alexandra Dapolito Dunn has been working at the academic world and with independent environmental organizations. Before she became EPA’s administrator for New England, Dunn was the general counsel and executive director at the Environmental Council of States. She also held the same positions at the Association of Clean Water Administrators, a group of the country’s state water officials.

Dunn taught environmental law and was dean of environmental law programs at Pace University. She was also an adjunct professor at the college of law, American University and at the Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.

Amanda Leiter, a law professor at American University and who was President Barack Obama’s deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department for land and minerals, commended through an email, Dunn’s environmental expertise.

Leiter recruited Alexandra Dapolito Dunn to teach environmental justice at both the American University and Catholic University. She said that the students loved Alexandra Dun who was “a consummate professional with a longstanding commitment to environmental protection and cooperative federalism, and a deep understanding of the importance of sound federal regulation.”

Alexandra Dunn has over 20 years of involvement in environmental law and policy and an expert in water quality issues according to the Environmental Law Institute, a non-profit group.

She also worked as counsel for associations of clean water agencies and administrators as well as for the American Chemistry Council.

The EPA’s chemical safety office is under close scrutiny for the way it is enforcing a major chemical safety law enacted in 2016.

The amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) empowers the agency to evaluate the various chemicals used in commercial products to ensure they are not health hazards to Americans. The agency is also mandated to evaluate new chemicals to verify any related health risks.

According to the agency, it plans to complete its evaluation of the first 10 chemicals that include asbestos by next year.

The 10 members of the subcommittee on environment, House Energy and Commerce, would like a hearing on how EPA was enforcing the law. The subcommittee said that the current approach of the agency weakens public confidence in the program because it contradicts the language and intent of the updated law.

Some of the decisions about pesticides and toxic chemicals, made when Scott Pruitt was the  EPA Administrator are now being questioned in court. One of them is Pruitt’s decision last spring not to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Studies show that children exposed to chlorpyrifos can have neurological developmental problems.

It’s unlikely that Dunn would generate the same level of political resistance as Dourson, whose nomination was met with a tremendous amount of criticism from public health and environmental advocates.

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