Quantcast

Chemical Industry Bigwig Headed to the U.S. EPA

Popular

By Melanie Benesh

The Trump administration just appointed a chemical industry bigwig to a high-level chemical safety position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.


You read that right. Nancy Beck is coming to the EPA straight from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the powerful lobby whose members include Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, ExxonMobil Chemical, Chevron Phillips Chemical and Bayer. Now she'll be making decisions as the deputy assistant administrator of the EPA department whose stated mission is to "protect you, your family, and the environment from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals."

Here's three things to know about Nancy Beck:

1. She has helped craft the chemical industry's political agenda for years.

Before being appointed to her new position, Beck worked for the ACC as senior director for regulatory science policy in the Division of Regulatory and Technical Affairs. In that position, she helped draft the industry's positions on chemical legislation before Congress and key regulations at the EPA and other agencies—including the major chemical reform bill that passed last year. Just last month, she testified before a House committee and advocated for EPA to adopt ACC's scientific approach to evaluating chemical safety.

In her new position at EPA she'll oversee the agency's decisions on chemical safety—decisions that will directly affect your health as well as the financial interests of ACC's member companies.

2. A House committee once called her out for "very disturbing" attempts to undermine EPA science.

Before joining the ACC, Beck was one of a handful of White House scientists who reviewed EPA regulations for the Office of Budget and Management —a job she started under the Bush Administration in 2002. During her tenure, that office increasingly scrutinized EPA chemical safety evaluations, resulting in significant delays.

In 2009, a report by the House Science and Technology Committee called her out by name for her efforts to rewrite and at times undermine EPA's assessments of toxic chemicals. Specifically, the report found a Beck comment on a proposed EPA evaluation of a group of flame retardants to be "very disturbing because it represents a substantive editorial change regarding how to characterize the science." It went on to say that her proposed changes "appear to enhance uncertainty" and that "the whole point of the exercise was to delay."

In other words, she used her position in the executive branch to water down EPA's conclusions about chemical safety and unduly delay finalization of risk assessments. Now she'll be overseeing how those conclusions get drafted at the agency.

3. She's been a vocal critic of EPA's chemical safety findings, despite her own "fundamentally flawed" approach to chemical safety.

Beck has been described as a "powerful critic" of EPA's Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS program, which researches chemical toxicity. IRIS assessments have traditionally played a big role in informing the rules that EPA and state governments adopt to protect people from toxic chemicals. Beck has frequently criticized the program and its conclusions, especially when they suggest the need to reduce pollution.

When Beck was a scientist in the George W. Bush administration's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, she helped write a controversial draft guidance that would have revamped and undermined the way EPA and other agencies evaluate chemical safety. That guidance was eventually withdrawn and significantly scaled back after the National Academy of Sciences criticized her proposed approach as "fundamentally flawed."

In her new post, Beck will be free to ignore IRIS findings and direct her office to make chemical safety decisions based on her preferred kinds of studies and scientific methods. She could also play a role in eliminating the IRIS chemical toxicity assessments altogether—something proposed by the Trump administration in a leaked memo.

Melanie Benesh analyzes federal food, farm and chemical law as legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less