Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend demands action from Burr, Tillis

Se. Richard Burr

Sen. Thom Tillis

One can forgive the people of the Cape Fear region these days if they’re a little sensitive about chemical pollutants in the environment and the failure of public officials to protect human wellbeing as the ongoing GenX mess continues to play out. So, it is from a place of experience that editors of the Wilmington Star News authored yesterday’s lead editorial blasting Donald Trump’s selection of chemical industry apologist Michael Dourson to head the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution.

After listing several of Trump’s bizarre picks to head various agencies, the editorial (“EPA nominee should scare us all”) puts it this way:

“The appointment of Michael Dourson to head the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution, however, takes the cake. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.

Unlike [failed Ag Department Science Adviser nominee Sam] Clovis, Dourson is an actual scientist. He has, however, spent the past 20 years or so working for clients such as DuPont (former owner of Chemours), Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, defending the safety of pesticides and other chemicals. Generally, he argued that these chemicals were far less risky than EPA scientists or independent researchers believed.

Through a fluke in ethics rules, there is nothing that bars Dourson from ruling on these companies’ chemicals that he was being paid to defend a year or two ago. That’s not exactly draining the swamp.

Dourson helped DuPont defend its use of the chemical PFOA — better known as C8, the precursor to GenX — after states sued over water contamination. Starting to sound familiar?

DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay $671 million to settle thousands of C8 lawsuits. Dourson, however, insisted that the levels were safe, even though a panel of scientists convened by DuPont found a probable link with six illnesses: kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.

Nobody expected Mr. Trump to name tree-huggers or Greenpeace activists to environmental posts. We would, though, expect at least a principled conservative with an independent mind, not someone who’s spent much of his career essentially as a paid lobbyist for the chemical industry.”

The editorial goes on to note the extreme importance of the GenX water pollution crisis to residents of southeastern North Carolina. It concludes with a demand (it even includes their phone numbers) of Senators Burr and Tillis:

“When Dourson’s nomination comes before the full Senate (and it shortly will), Burr and Tillis should demand that the president name someone else. If you are ever going to contact your U.S. senator’s office about a national issue, this is it.

This isn’t about political ideology or whether you support or don’t support President Trump. This is about nothing less than the very basic safety of our drinking water.”

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