Carper Highlights Insufficient Responses from EPA Nominees

In written responses, Dourson and Wehrum evaded basic policy questions and all four EPA nominees refuse to commit to basic transparency measures if confirmed

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released the responses he received to questions he asked of Michael Dourson, Bill Wehrum, David Ross and Matthew Leopold – individuals who have been nominated to serve in top posts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Following an October 4th confirmation hearing before the EPW Committee, the nominees’ responses to substantive questions submitted for the record by Senator Carper have raised serious concerns.

Of particular concern were Dr. Dourson and Mr. Wehrum’s repeated attempts to evade Senator Carper’s basic questions about issues they would be overseeing if confirmed to serve at EPA. For instance, Dr. Dourson, who has been nominated to run the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), did not provide a substantive answer to a single one of Senator Carper’s eight questions related to the implementation of the bipartisan Toxic Substances Control Act, which was passed almost unanimously by Congress last year. Even on general questions regarding how Dr. Dourson thinks EPA should protect people from exposure to chemicals –the main function of the OCSPP – Dr. Dourson did not provide complete responses.

Similarly, Mr. Wehrum, who has been nominated to run EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, was not forthcoming in his responses to basic policy questions related to climate change, greenhouse gas regulations, the Paris Climate Accord, mercury emissions and ozone. He also did not provide a substantive response to most questions about how he would address concerns about his ability to be an impartial regulator in light of his myriad of conflicts of interests.

“These were not difficult questions. An individual seeking to become our nation’s top chemical safety regulator should easily be able to answer how EPA should protect the most vulnerable among us from exposures to chemicals or the important new chemical safety law he would be charged with implementing. Dr. Dourson didn’t provide substantive responses to most of my questions about both of those key issues,” said Senator Carper. “Mr. Wehrum, who has been nominated to run EPA’s air office, similarly dismissed my straightforward questions on ozone, mercury emissions and greenhouse gases – some of the most serious threats to clean air. Unfortunately, their evasiveness doesn’t inspire confidence in Dr. Dourson and Mr. Wehrum’s nominations.”

Additionally, all four EPA nominees refused to commit to basic transparency measures, including:

  • Shielding EPA career staff from improper political interference by the White House;
  • Informing EPA career staff of their right to communicate with Congress, especially following reports that EPA’s recent anti-leak training omitted this information;
  • Ensuring that EPA career staff receive appropriately documented directions following reports that verbal direction was given to staff directing them to simply delete economic data while preparing EPA’s Clean Water Rule repeal proposal;
  • Publishing daily copies of their calendars, as was the case for all Senate-confirmed (and other) EPA officials during the Obama Administration when Gina McCarthy served as EPA Administrator.

“I am disappointed that these nominees, who have been nominated to fill top positions at the agency charged with protecting public health and the environment, were unable to commit to even the most basic transparency measures if confirmed,” added Senator Carper. 

Senator Carper’s questions submitted to the nominees are available here. The EPA nominees’ responses to Senator Carper’s questions submitted for the record are available here. The business meeting to consider these nominations is set to be held on Wednesday, October 18th.