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White House taps lawyer to lead EPA chemicals office

Nomination comes at critical time for implementation of amended Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA

by Britt Erickson
September 4, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 36

Photo of Alexandra Dapolito Dunn.
Credit: EPA
Alexandra Dunn

President Trump’s latest choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s chemicals office, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, is much less controversial than his first choice, Michael Dourson.

Unlike Dourson, who has a background working with the chemical industry, Dunn is an environmental lawyer who currently serves as EPA’s regional administrator for New England. Dourson withdrew his nomination last December.

Dunn has experience working with state agencies and universities to shape policy. Before joining EPA, she served as executive director and general counsel for the Environmental Council of the States, a nonpartisan organization that works with state governments on environmental matters. She previously served as executive director and general counsel for the Association of Clean Water Administrators, which works with state agencies on water issues. She has also served as dean of the Environmental Law Program at Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law, and she taught at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and American University’s Washington College of Law.

Dunn holds a B.A. in political science from James Madison University and a J.D. from the Columbus School of Law.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, welcomed Dunn’s nomination, calling her a “well-qualified candidate for this important position.” The group urged the Senate to quickly confirm her nomination. “She has earned a reputation for striving to build consensus and for considering all sides of an issue before acting,” ACC said in a statement.

Environmentalists are urging Dunn, if confirmed, to implement the 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act in a manner that protects public health. “Every aspect of the law’s implementation by the Trump Administration has gone badly off the rails, skewed heavily in the chemical industry’s favor at the expense of the public’s health,” Richard Denison, a lead senior scientist at the environmental group, Environmental Defense Fund, claims in a blog post. He is calling for the next head of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention “to facilitate a fundamental shift in TSCA implementation back to a course that comports with the law, reflects strong science, and is protective of public and worker health, including that of vulnerable subpopulations.”


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