In a year like 2017, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the victories.
This week we learned that Michael Dourson has withdrawn from consideration for Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. This great news followed a persistent campaign to defeat his nomination by numerous environmental health organizations and activists across the country.
The victory reflects the work that public health groups did together to sound the alarm on how uniquely unqualified Dr. Dourson is—particularly as EPA establishes new frameworks for evaluating and regulating chemicals under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act. It also reflects the determination of our allies in Senate offices on both sides of the aisle, who would not accept this nomination. As EPW Ranking member Tom Carper (Del.) said after Dourson’s announcement, “When you think the nominees are just totally inappropriate for a particular position, fight it with everything we have.”
In October, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and our partners sent a letter to the Environment and Public Works Committee urging them to reject the Dourson nomination. The Trump administration has certainly not hesitated to install representatives of polluting industries in the agencies responsible for protecting public health and the environment, so we knew we had our work cut out for us.
Before the EPW committee met with Dourson in October, we worked with colleagues at Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group and the Environmental Defense Fund to accompany people from communities across the U.S. who have been affected by the harms of chemicals under EPA review as they told their stories in Senate offices. Senators heard story after story of real-life impacts of hazardous chemicals in their communities – from Hoosick Falls, NY water contamination to cancer clusters in Indiana tied to chemicals like TCE and PFOA in drinking water.
The evening before the EPW vote, Center for Environmental Health’s Ansje Miller and I delivered messages to Senate offices from more than 100,000 people urging them to reject the nomination.
After the EPW committee’s party-line vote to advance Dourson’s nomination, our partners in communities across the country turned up the heat in local media outlets, making sure their neighbors knew how high the stakes are for this office. Thanks to notable work from North Carolina groups, that state’s Republican Senators publicly declared their opposition to the nomination—and more may have followed with time. Feeling the heat, Dourson withdrew his name for consideration on Wednesday!
This certainly won’t be the last we see of chemical industry insiders at EPA, so we’ll keep monitoring and exposing their influence over chemical policy.
But today we savor and celebrate the victory.