That’s Really Dour, Son

You’ve heard of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. After this news, it may be time to create a Donald J. Trump Profile in Chutzpah Award:

President Trump’s environmental chief has installed a controversial toxicologist as his top adviser — at least temporarily bypassing Senate confirmation for a nominee Democrats fiercely oppose.

The move enraged environmental groups and irked Democrats, who were hoping to tank the candidate’s confirmation to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety and pollution prevention office.

At the center of this firestorm is Michael Dourson, a University of Cincinnati professor and Trump’s divisive pick for the chemical safety post. Dourson endured a brutal confirmation hearing earlier this month; his nomination is currently pending before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

But even as he awaits a vote, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has hired Dourson to be one of his top advisers, said Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesman. The news was first reported by E&E News, an energy and environment publication.

In terms of his lack of suitability for the job, Dourson is right down there with Trump and Pruitt. Dourson has spent the last few years promoting the idea that hazardous chemicals aren’t really all that hazardous—and as you might have guessed, he doesn’t do this sort of stuff for free:

[Dourson] has been hired by industry to consult on at least 30 of the chemicals he may be responsible for reviewing if he assumes office.

Dourson’s consulting company, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, or TERA, was paid by Dow Chemical, CropLife America, the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries, and other companies and industry groups to study dozens of chemicals. The evaluations TERA produced consistently failed to recognize threats that were clear to scientists and regulators not on the companies’ payrolls.

If confirmed as director of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Dourson will be in a position to set safety levels for many of the same chemicals his company was paid to defend, including nine pesticides scheduled for scrutiny and 20 industrial compounds that may be evaluated under the recently updated chemical safety law.

Dourson would also be in a position to make decisions affecting chlorpyrifos, another pesticide he’s been paid to research, which can cause memory, intelligence, attention, and motor problems in children. Based on numerous studies that found that very low doses of the pesticide can harm children’s brains, the EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos in 2016. In research paid for by Dow, the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, Dourson came up with a safety threshold that was some 5,000 times less protective than what the EPA recommended for children between the ages of one and two.

I’m sure Dourson, like Pruitt, thinks of himself as “pro-life.” What kind of sick mind is driven to the point of zealotry with concern about unborn children, only to immediately abandon any concern about the health, safety and welfare of said unborn children the moment they’ve been pushed from their mothers’ wombs? Wouldn’t an actual “pro-lifer” be fixated on making sure newborn children had clean air, clean water and a stable climate in which to grow up? What is wrong with these people?

In the name of putting an extra nickel into the pockets of polluters, Dourson, Pruitt and Trump are willing to risk the well-being of the families of their own supporters. Maybe Republicans weren’t wrong to brand themselves the “family values” party after all; it’s obvious that Dourson, Pruitt and Trump hold fast to the values of a crime family, and are depraved enough to, in effect, take out a contract on our children.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.