WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing on the nomination of Alexandra Dunn to be Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling today’s hearing on the nomination of Alexandra Dunn to lead EPA’s chemical safety office. Just over a year ago, it was publicly made clear that the Trump Administration’s first nominee for this position, Michael Dourson, would never be confirmed by the United States Senate. I am pleased to say to Ms. Dunn, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting with last week: You are clearly no Michael Dourson.
“A majority of Senators signaled their intent to vote against Dr. Dourson’s confirmation because they felt that he lacked the objectivity and credibility to be EPA’s top chemical safety regulator. From what I know of Ms. Dunn’s professional reputation, she does not lack objectivity or credibility. But what I hope to better understand today as we consider Ms. Dunn’s nomination, is whether she represents a change in personnel, or a change in direction.
“When Congress, the chemical industry and the environmental community worked together to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016, it was largely because of our shared interest in ensuring that EPA had the tools to be an objective and credible chemical safety regulator. All of us - from Jim Inhofe to Ed Markey - worked hard to build the near-unanimous vote to enact the new law, because a decades-old lawsuit had made it all but impossible for EPA to ban, or otherwise regulate, some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man.
“Regrettably, the Trump Administration’s implementation of the new law has not led to what we all hoped would be renewed public confidence in a stronger, credible federal chemical safety regulator. In fact, best I can tell, there is almost no element of EPA’s TSCA implementation efforts that has the vote of confidence of anyone at all. Instead of using the new law to protect Americans from exposure to toxic chemicals, the Trump Administration appears to have broken the new law repeatedly, subjecting itself to litigation that I – along with many others – believe the Administration will likely lose.
“Instead of looking at all of the uses of a chemical when evaluating a chemical’s safety the way the law requires, EPA is completely ignoring many of these uses. This has led, and will continue to lead, to weaker protections for the most vulnerable among us. Instead of imposing enforceable requirements to ensure that both the public and workers are protected from exposure to new chemicals, EPA seems to be assuming that companies will take voluntary action to do so. Instead of looking at all of the scientific studies related to a chemical’s safety, EPA is deliberately excluding independent university research and giving more weight to industry-funded studies. And the one positive step EPA said it would take to finalize one of three chemical bans proposed by the Obama Administration has been stalled for more than six months.
“Neither I, nor any of my Democratic colleagues, were under any illusions that we would agree on everything the Trump Administration EPA did. Nonetheless, I believe that all of us had hoped that the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and compromise that this Committee drew upon when we were writing the new law would also be reflected in the new law’s implementation. I, for one, am profoundly disappointed that this has not been the case.
“So what I would like to learn today, Ms. Dunn, is whether you can change that dynamic. I know from our meeting that you want to change it – but the question is, will you have the authority and support from the rest of the political leadership in the Trump Administration to be a change in direction, and not just a change in personnel.
“If the answer is yes, I think there is a real possibility that you could be confirmed in short order. If the answer is no, then your nomination could be pending for some time, which is not what any of us want. In any event, we’ll be listening to your answers to questions today to begin to gauge which course it’s likely to be. Let me add, however, that we’ll also be looking to Acting Administrator Wheeler for some specific commitments that will make possible a real change in direction for EPA’s chemical safety efforts.
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for scheduling this confirmation hearing for Ms. Dunn today. I believe we are all looking forward to her testimony.”