October 18, 2017

Duckworth Places Holds on EPA Nominees Bill Wehrum & Michael Dourson


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] -U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) placed a hold today on two of President Trump's nominees to lead offices at the EPA - Bill Wehrum and Dr. Michael Dourson - citing their histories of putting corporate profits ahead of public safety. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works was scheduled to consider Wehrum's nomination to lead the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation and Dourson's nomination to lead the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention this morning. However, the Committee postponed their meeting after Duckworth penned an op-ed outlining Wehrum's record of opposing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which is vital to many Midwestern economies. Wehrum has been a longtime critic of the RFS program and represented the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry, and opponents of the RFS in four different lawsuits attacking the RFS program before he was nominated by Trump to lead the office at the EPA that oversees the RFS' implementation.

"In the ten months that Donald Trump has been President, his administration has launched unprecedented attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard - attacks that fly in the face of promises Trump made as a candidate to our nation's farmers that he would champion the RFS program if elected," said Duckworth. "Mr. Wehrum's history of attacking the biofuels industry and his refusal to recuse himself from RFS-related issues despite his well-documented conflicts of interest should alarm all of my colleagues. As someone who fought to defend this nation, I have seen firsthand the price we pay for our dangerous dependence on oil imported from our adversaries. Any Senator who supports the RFS program, our farmers, and our commitment to the environment and energy dependence must oppose his nomination."

In Illinois, the RFS supports more than 4,000 jobs and generates more than $5 billion dollars in economic impact. Nationwide, it is supporting 86,000 direct jobs and it has helped generate $8.7 billion in tax revenues that go to schools, roads and first responders.

During Dr. Michael Dourson's confirmation hearing to lead the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Duckworth questioned Dourson about his previous "research" that was funded by Koch Industries, which falsely claimed exposure to petroleum coke (petcoke) is safe. Though the EPA recognizes petcoke as a dangerous toxin that can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung diseases and asthma, Dourson's "research" was used by Koch Industries to justify not cleaning up the toxin in Chicago. Koch-owned KCBX Terminals, Inc. petcoke storage facilities on Chicago's Southeast Side created lung-damaging black dust that lead to high asthma rates and respiratory problems for adults and children that were exposed to the substance.

"My constituents needed experts such as yourself to stand up for them and their health rather than running cover for polluters who are wealthy and willing to poison our children as they put profits first," Duckworth told Dourson at the hearing. "Manipulating science to achieve a pre-determined outcome is not what the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention should be about."

At his confirmation hearing, Dourson refused three times to answer questions from Senator Duckworth about whether he believed the EPA is right in its assessment of the health risks posed to Americans by petcoke, before finally saying, "I'm not ready to answer that question," prompting Duckworth to respond, "In that case, you're not ready to go work at the EPA." Video of the exchange between Duckworth and Dourson can be found here.