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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 22, 2019, the appointment of Dennis Deziel as Regional Administrator for Region 1.  Mr. Deziel will oversee environmental protection efforts in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut and in ten Tribal Nations.  According to EPA, Mr. Deziel has spent much of his life working in public service in Washington, D.C.  He most recently worked at Dow as the Director of Federal Government Affairs, where he focused on environment, energy, and regulatory affairs issues.  Prior to entering private industry, Mr. Deziel served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Environmental Management at the U.S. Department of Energy from 2012 to 2014, leading budget, policy, and planning development for the largest environmental cleanup program in the United States.  He also managed chemical security issues at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2004 to 2010, and prior to that, he served as a policy advisor for the Council for Environmental Quality from 2002 to 2004.  EPA notes that Mr. Deziel began his career working at EPA in the pesticides and chemicals program.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
Earlier this month, David Fischer joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) as a Deputy Assistant Administrator.  Prior to joining EPA, Mr. Fischer was most recently a partner of legal and regulatory affairs at IBEX Partners LLC, a public affairs firm.  Before his partnership at IBEX, Mr. Fischer held several senior positions at the American Chemistry Council in its Office of General Counsel and Chemical Products and Technology Division, providing legal and policy counsel on a broad range of industrial, specialty chemical, and product defense matters.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Fischer was also the Director of Environmental Health at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, where he led the first national assessment of state activities in lead poisoning prevention. 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) will hold a hearing on the nomination of Alexandra Dapolito Dunn to be the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator (AA) for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) on Thursday, November 29, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. (EST) in room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  The hearing will be webcast and will be available on the EPW Committee website.

Ms. Dunn has been serving as the Regional Administrator for EPA’s New England Region (Region 1) since January of this year.  Prior to joining EPA, Ms. Dunn served as Executive Director and General Counsel for the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to helping state agencies improve environment outcomes for Americans. While at ECOS, Ms. Dunn helped state governments improve water infrastructure, reduce air pollution, clean up contaminated sites, manage chemical safety, and enhance economic development.  Before joining ECOS, Ms. Dunn was Executive Director and General Counsel for the Association of Clean Water Administrators.  Ms. Dunn was also a former chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER).  More information on Ms. Dunn’s experience and accolades is available in EPA’s press release announcing her nomination.


 

By Jessie Nguyen and Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW Committee) held a hearing entitled “Examining EPA’s Agenda:  Protecting the Environment and Allowing America’s Economy to Grow.”  Testifying at the hearing was Andrew Wheeler, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acting Administrator.  Witness testimony and an archive of the hearing are available online.  The hearing was intended to provide Wheeler with the opportunity to present himself for the first time in front of the EPW Committee as the Acting Administrator, and to update the EPW Committee on EPA’s agenda since the resignation of Scott Pruitt, EPA’s former Administrator.  Wheeler’s testimony highlighted three main priorities for EPA moving forward:  (1) regulatory certainty between EPA and state/local governments; (2) improvement of programs within EPA; and (3) increased transparency in risk communication.

During the questioning, Wheeler informed the EPW Committee that the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay and the prevention of future lead contamination are high priorities for the Agency.  When questioned by Senator John Boozman (R-AR) about EPA’s relationship with stakeholders, Wheeler stated that clear communication between EPA and its stakeholders is essential before implementing any regulatory action.  EPA is also committed to working with other government agencies to enhance their regulatory process.

Next, the Trump Administration’s decision to roll back auto fuel efficiency and emissions standards, as well as the partial revocation of California’s ability to set its own emissions standards, was met with strong objection from Democratic Senators.  Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) stated that the oil industry is “scared to death that $1 trillion will stay stranded in the pockets of consumers.  That’s why the Trump Administration is moving to roll back these standards.”  Wheeler stated his belief that the roll back in emissions standards has saved American consumers $500 billion dollars and 12,000 lives.  Moving forward, Wheeler wants to come up with a “50-states solution” for emissions standards to address the issue of air pollutants and reduce cross-state pollution.

The topic of chemicals was brought up by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) as he is concerned that EPA’s failure to consider all sources of exposure for risk assessment will pose an unreasonable risk to human health -- especially to vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly.  Senator Booker urged EPA to ban trichloroethylene (TCE) on the applications for which proposed rules were issued and ban methylene chloride since they are known carcinogens with recognized health hazards.  Wheeler said EPA is moving forward with the assessment of these chemicals, but he declined to promise on a definitive timeframe.  Similarly, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) urged EPA to release the toxicological report on perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and set a safety level for PFOS in soil and water.

In response to a question on clean energy by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Wheeler stated he will not give preferential treatment for one source of energy over another; EPA’s role is to regulate pollutants, not to identify a preferential fuel source.  Other miscellaneous topics included Wheeler’s commitment to not abuse his hiring authority.  He expressed a willingness to notify the EPW Committee on EPA’s hiring process.  In response to Senator Tammy Duckworth’s (D-IL) request, EPA will also make a commitment to reduce lead exposure. 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On November 29, 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the nomination of Andrew R. Wheeler, Esquire for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator.  Mr. Wheeler currently works as a Principal at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting providing guidance on federal regulatory and legislative environmental and energy issues.  He began his environmental policy career at EPA in 1991 when he was Special Assistant to the Information Management Division Director in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.  He also spent many years on Capitol Hill as Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator James Inhofe, and Staff Director and Chief Counsel for two Senate Committees:  the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, Wetlands, and Nuclear Safety.  Mr. Wheeler received his JD from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, and his MBA from George Mason University.  


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On October 25, 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee confirmed the nominations of four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials:  Michael Dourson, Ph.D., for Assistant Administrator (AA) of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); William Wehrum, Esquire, for AA of the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), Matthew Leopold, Esquire, for General Counsel, and David Ross, Esquire for AA of the Office of Water (OW).  Dourson and Wehrum, the more contentiously debated nominees, were confirmed along party lines with 11 votes (Committee Republicans) to 10 (Committee Democrats).  The nominees must now face a vote by the full Senate.

More information on the EPW Committee hearing held on October 4, 2017, and on the nominees is available on our blog under key word nomination.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) has rescheduled its Committee Business Meeting to vote on nominees to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for October 25, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT).  The EPA nominees are:  Michael Dourson, Ph.D., for Assistant Administrator (AA) of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); William Wehrum, Esquire for AA of the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), Matthew Leopold, Esquire, for General Counsel, and David Ross, Esquire for AA of the Office of Water (OW). 

More information on the nominees, including a recap of the confirmation hearing, is available on our blog under key word nomination


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On October 18, 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee postponed a scheduled business meeting to vote on the nominations of four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials:  Michael Dourson, Ph.D., for Assistant Administrator (AA) of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP); William Wehrum, Esquire for AA of the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR), Matthew Leopold, Esquire, for General Counsel, and David Ross, Esquire for AA of the Office of Water (OW).  

The EPW Committee did not give a reason for the postponement nor announce a new date for the meeting, but it is being reported that EPW Committee members, including Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have reservations regarding Wehrum’s confirmation due to increasing friction with EPA on biofuels and the renewable fuel standard (RFS).  On October 16, 2017, 33 Senators on both sides of the aisle sent a letter to Administrator Pruitt regarding the proposed Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for advanced biofuel for 2018 and biomass-based diesel for 2019, stating the proposed volumes “could have a negative impact on jobs and economies” as they “would hold the biomass-based diesel volume for 2019 stagnant at 2.1 billion gallons and decrease the advanced biofuel volume for 2018 to 4.24 billion gallons.”

As mentioned in our blog item “Senate EPW Committee Hearing on Nominations of EPA Officials,” during the October 4, 2017, hearing, Dourson was questioned and criticized the most heavily, followed by Wehrum.

More information is available on our blog under key word nomination.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, Susan M. Kirsch, and Margaret R. Graham

On October 4, 2017, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing on the nomination of four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials:

  • Michael Dourson, Ph.D., for Assistant Administrator (AA) of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP);
  • William L. Wehrum, Esquire, for AA of the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR);
  • Matthew Leopold, Esquire, for General Counsel; and
  • David Ross, Esquire, for AA of the Office of Water (OW).

More information on the backgrounds of these nominees is available in our blog item Senate EPW Committee to Hold Hearing on Nominations of EPA Officials.  Some of the highlights from the hearing portions on each of the nominees are below.  Dourson was questioned and criticized the most heavily, followed by Wehrum.

Michael Dourson, Ph.D., for AA of OCSPP

Dr. Dourson faced a barrage of criticism and questions from several EPW Committee members.  The first was from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who stated that Dourson had relied on underrated exposure data when he was studying the dangers of smoking for Phillip Morris.  Senator Tammy Duckworth’s (D-IL) line of questioning was equally aggressive, referring to certain work Dourson conducted in Chicago as “pseudoscience” when he concluded there was no risk of adverse health effects.  Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) claimed that the nomination of Dourson for a position that seeks to protect families from pesticides and toxic chemicals was “shocking,” as his track record has shown him to be a “corporate lackey” working only for the results that suit the corporations for which he conducted the assessments. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was brought to tears recalling the fate of her constituents in Hoosick Falls, NY, regarding their experiences with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the water supply.  Gillibrand asked Dourson whether he believed PFOA has been linked to kidney cancer and if he would uphold EPA’s standards for PFOA exposure.  Dourson replied that PFOA has been linked to some forms of cancer, science has progressed, and new standards are necessary.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) asked Dourson point blank whether chlorpyrifos has been linked to brain damage in children, as Dourson has worked on the safety aspects of this chemical for the chemical manufacturing community.  Dourson replied that he was aware of studies indicating some association and that the studies making these associations were part of a collaborative project that included government scientists.  Merkley noted Dourson’s involvement with several chemical trade groups and questioned whether he could be impartial.

Many of the Committee members asked why his recommendations on safe exposures to certain chemicals, including chlorpyrifos, trichloroethylene (TCE), and 1,4-dioxane, were many times higher than those of EPA’s standards.  Dourson’s response was that EPA in some instances does not use the most up to date science and data.  Dourson stated that he is committed to using the most credible and up to date science, as well as independent peer review, which is why many of his assessments differ from those at EPA.  He also noted that the use of good science should be the touchstone of everything that EPA does and is committed to working to ensure that the best science is considered and reviewed “even for the most vulnerable in our population,” through a transparent and a collaborative process. 

Ranking Member Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Merkley, and Booker all asked Dourson to recuse himself from working on any chemical issues on which he had been contracted to work in the past on industry’s behalf, claiming that to do less would be unethical and pose a danger to the health and welfare of the American public.  Dourson replied that he would do what was requested of him by the EPA ethics officials, and that he will bring “new science and thinking” into the Agency. 

Senator Marion Rounds (R-SD) requested that Dourson keep Congress apprised on implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which Dourson confirmed he would do.

William Wehrum, for AA of OAR

In his opening statement, Wehrum signaled his intent to follow the “clear agenda” set by President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.  He also pledged to adhere to three key objectives set forth by Administrator Pruitt.  First, he noted that EPA’s role is to administer laws faithfully and to avoid the temptation to bootstrap its own powers and tools through rulemaking.  Second, he stated that EPA must “acknowledge, respect, and promote the critical role of the states in implementing Federal environmental laws and in protecting human health and the environment.”  Third, he emphasized the important role that the public plays in the regulatory process.

Ranking Member Senator Carper provided a particularly harsh critique of Wehrum’s fitness for office.  Although stating that he believed Wehrum to be a good person, he opined that he did not think him an appropriate choice for the OAR post, stating that “he defers too frequently to industry, suppresses scientific information, and declines to respond to Congressional inquiry.”  During a second round of questioning, Carper asked Wehrum to defend actions that, in Carper’s view, demonstrate that he is not faithfully committed to implementing the Clean Air Act (CAA). 

Democratic Senators’ questions to Wehrum belied their doubts about his adequacy to serve as the AA, while Republican committee members’ questions unsurprisingly were less severe.  When asked about potential conflicts, Wehrum noted that he would be required to comply with comprehensive ethics rules, if confirmed.  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) cited a court decision on EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) establishing emission limits for coal-fired power plants, and that the decision compels EPA to consider the costs of compliance in setting such standards.  To this Wehrum replied that EPA “absolutely” must follow the law and implement two goals:  to protect human health and the environment and to promote economic growth. 

Senator Merkley asked whether Wehrum believed that human activity is the major factor in climate change.  Wehrum responded that he believed it was a factor, but that human activity was not clearly the major factor. 

David Ross Esquire, for AA of OW, and Matthew Leopold, Esquire, for General Counsel

In stark contrast to the cross-examination endured by Dourson and Wehrum, Committee Members directed only a few, soft ball questions to David Ross and Matthew Leopold, the nominees for AA of OW and EPA General Counsel, respectively.  Ross currently serves as an Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Environmental Protection Unit for the Wisconsin Department of Justice. His water quality law and policy career also includes positions with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and the Wyoming Water and Natural Resources Division, as well as positions held in private environmental law practice.  Given Ross’ extensive experience in state government, it came as no surprise that his testimony emphasized the importance of cooperative federalism and the need for EPA to reach “outside the beltway” and improve its collaboration with state regulators.  Ross acknowledged that there are divergent views on how to best manage U.S. water resources, and that he is committed to identifying approaches that will protect public health and the environment without hindering economic growth.  Ross is likely to be confirmed without much resistance, although it is unclear at this time when his nomination will be scheduled for a Senate floor vote. 

Leopold is currently Of Counsel at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., in their government law and consulting practice group.  He previously served as General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from 2013 to 2015.  Leopold’s testimony included expressions of his respect for environmental protection and the rule of law, the pride he has taken in helping to restore the Everglades ecosystem, and his work on reparations related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some press outlets are reporting that Dourson’s nomination may be at risk.  Given the simple majority vote needed to progress to a full Senate vote, this is by no means clear.  What is clear is that the hearing yesterday was as emotional as we have viewed in a long time, and a vivid depiction of how environmental issues, particularly issues involving chemicals and exposure to them, remain divisive, emotional, and political.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) has rescheduled the full committee hearing on four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominations to Wednesday, October 4, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT).  The four nominations are:

  • Michael Dourson, Ph.D., for Assistant Administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP);
  • Matthew Leopold, Esquire, for General Counsel;
  • David Ross, Esquire, for Assistant Administrator for Water; and
  • William L. Wehrum, Esquire, for Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. 

More information on the nominees is available in our blog item Senate EPW Committee to Hold Hearing on Nominations of EPA Officials.  


 
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