October 05, 2017

Duckworth to Trump Nominee Dourson Who Helped Koch Industries Skirt Environmental Protections in Chicago: You Shouldn’t Work at the EPA


[WASHIGNTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) criticized President Trump's nominee to be Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator, Dr. Michael Dourson, this week for writing faux-scientific reports intended to undermine real science. One of those reports included a Koch Industries-funded study claiming that exposure to petroleum coke (petcoke) is safe. Though the EPA recognizes petcoke as a dangerous toxin, 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 said 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."

During the Wednesday Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing with Duckworth, Dourson refused to answer whether he believed the EPA is right in its assessment of the health risks posed to Americans by petcoke. When the Senator asked three times if he agrees with the EPA's health warnings on petcoke Dr. Dourson finally said, "I'm not ready to answer that question." Video of the exchange between Duckworth and Dourson can be found here.

"In that case, you're not ready to go work at the EPA," Duckworth said at the time.

Petcoke is a solid black carbon material resembling coal that is a product of oil refining. Inhaling petcoke can contribute to serious respiratory health problems, particularly for individuals who suffer from heart and lung disease and asthma, the EPA states. In 2013, residents of southeast Chicago reported windblown dust and water pollution believed to be caused by three large petcoke storage and handling facilities on the Calumet River. Two of them are now closed and the remaining storage pile is no longer outdoors.

Petcoke facilities are still operational in Ohio, Louisiana, Texas and Michigan.