Trump pick leaving EPA over ties to chemical industry

Michael Biesecker
Associated Press

Washington – President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee chemical safety is departing the Environmental Protection Agency a month after withdrawing his nomination in the face of concerns over his ties to the chemical industry.

Donald Trump has tapped Michael Dourson to lead the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Dourson, a toxicologist, has for years accepted payments from chemical companies to write papers pushing back against peer-reviewed studies raising health concerns about his clients’ products.

Michael L. Dourson has been a senior adviser to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. His online resume indicates his employment at the agency ends in January.

EPA had previously refused to comment on whether he was still working at the agency or say how much he is being paid. Records show other senior advisers to Pruitt earn about $170,000 annually.

Democrats were united in opposition to Dourson’s nomination to head the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. He pulled out after two Republican senators said they would not vote for him.

“We wish him continued success in his future endeavors,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Tuesday in a statement praising Dourson’s past work and credentials.

The Associated Press reported in September that as a toxicologist Dourson accepted payments for criticizing scientific studies that raised concerns about the safety of his clients’ products, according to a review of financial records and his published work.

Past corporate clients of Dourson and of a research group he ran include Dow Chemical Co., Koch Industries Inc. and Chevron Corp. His research has also been underwritten by industry trade and lobbying groups representing the makers of plastics, pesticides, processed foods and cigarettes.

EPA did not provide a specific date for Dourson’s last day at the agency. Politico was the first to report he would be leaving in the coming days.

Environmental groups cheered Dourson’s departure.

“Someone with Dourson’s track record of pushing for dramatically weaker safety standards for chemicals linked to cancer, brain damage and reproductive harm should never have been let in the door at EPA,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.