The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday advanced the nominations of four potential assistant administrators for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), raising concerns among conservationists and Democratic lawmakers who worry the candidates’ connections to various industries will further endanger regulations that have been in under attack since Trump appointee Scott Pruitt took over as the agency’s administrator.
The four EPA nominees whose fate could soon be decided by a full senate vote are:
- William “Bill” Wehrum, nominee to be assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
- Michael Dourson, nominee to be assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the EPA;
- Matthew Leopold, nominee to be assistant administrator for the Office of General Counsel at the EPA; and
- David Ross, nominee to be assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the EPA.
While Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the committee chairman, introduced the candidates as “well-qualified, experienced, and dedicated public servants,” declaring “their confirmation will fill critically important roles in ensuring that all Americans benefit from clean air, clean water, and clean land,” conservationists and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, expressed concerns about the nominees’ ties to industry.
“All four of these nominees, especially Bill Wehrum and Michael Dourson, would accelerate Scott Pruitt’s mission to dismantle the EPA from the inside,” said League of Conservation Voters vice president for government affairs Sara Chieffo. “Far from draining the swamp, these industry insiders are entirely unfit to serve and pose a grave threat to our communities and our health.”
“All four of these nominees, especially Bill Wehrum and Michael Dourson, would accelerate Scott Pruitt’s mission to dismantle the EPA from the inside.”
—Sara Chieffo, League of Conservation Voters”All four have condemned the very existence of the EPA and want to weaken it beyond recognition, threatening the EPA’s mission to protect our clean air and water,” Chieffo added. “We call on the Senate to reject their nominations.”
Although Leopold and Ross have been criticized, Wehrum and Dourson have garnered the most negative attention.
Carper told Reuters Wehrum and Dourson’s nominations were of “grave concern,” and called Dourson “one of the most troubling nominees I have ever considered during my time on this committee.” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Dourson was “so far out of the scientific mainstream, it is outrageous.”
“We’ve done the wrong thing,” Carper said after the committee voted along party lines to approve both men. “I have never been this troubled on this committee, or any committee, in 17 years.”
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