Quantcast
Trump Watch

A Parting Gift From Dourson: A Trove of Revealing Emails

By Richard Denison

Last week, the New York Times reported on the withdrawal of the nomination of Michael Dourson to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) chemical safety office—which we applauded as a win for public health.

The Times article mentioned and provided a link to a 400-page trove of emails to and from Dourson that were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in August by Greenpeace to the University of Cincinnati, where Dourson previously worked.


The emails shine a rare spotlight on a network, of which Dourson and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are a part, that operates largely out of public view. It involves a coordinated effort between the chemical industry and its private and academic consultants to generate science that invariably supports the safety of the industry's chemicals, and pushes back against any regulatory and academic science that indicates otherwise. The emails make for very interesting reading, if you can skip through the myriad emails about scheduling calls and meetings (which make up the bulk of any of our inboxes, I suspect).

To pique your interest, let me start with one email relating to Dourson's nomination.

His nomination was publicly announced by Scott Pruitt on July 17. But nearly two months earlier, in an email (see page 178) dated May 23 and marked confidential, Dourson wrote to Kimberly White at ACC to let her know of his "appointment," and also alluding to the possibility (which came to pass) that he would be hired as an advisor before being confirmed:

Based on the recommendation of EPA Administrator Pruitt, President Trump has appointed me as the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Safety Assessment and Pollution Prevention. EPA wants to get my senate confirmation scheduled before the August recess. They may also want to hire me into the Agency in July, which apparently they can do as soon as the announcement is made. The announcement is made after background checks are completed (40 days is typical). At this point, please keep news of this appointment under wraps.

Now, ACC is no doubt upset by the Dourson withdrawal, having hired Dourson repeatedly to help defend its companies' chemicals and never wavering in support of his nomination. So it should come as no surprise that ACC is also unhappy with the Times' release of the emails, especially given that a large fraction of them involve communications that include Dourson and ACC employees.

Last Thursday the ACC took to its blog to object to the Times article as "misleading." The only specific it takes issue with, however, is that the article "paints a dubious picture of emails between one of our employees and Dr. Michael Dourson."

ACC's specific beef is that the Times flagged emails showing that Dourson and his university colleagues had exchanged drafts of a paper they were working on with an ACC staffer. ACC pointed out that the staffer in that case was a co-author of the paper. Fair enough.

But ACC's nit conveniently ignores other emails. One chain shows direct communications between Dourson and ACC involving another paper he co-authored that was in the final stages of publication in Dourson's go-to journal. Even though no one from ACC is a co-author on this paper, Dourson's emails indicate not only that ACC had the galley proofs of the paper, but that ACC staff seemed to be the keeper of them (see chain around page 213).

ACC's blog post goes on to cite its policy that scientific conclusions and judgments drawn by outside parties ACC hires are not subject to its control. But that policy goes on to state that "the Council shall have the right to review such judgments and conclusions" for "clarification, and format and editorial comments." Seems like an elephant could slip through that opening.

Recall that ACC recently embraced EPA Administrator Pruitt's new directive that bars EPA-funded scientists from serving on any agency advisory panel. The outlandish premise behind the directive is that EPA and the extramural researchers it funds are somehow in cahoots to find problems the agency can then regulate. So it's worth noting that, unlike ACC's contracts, EPA grants have no allowance for EPA to pre-review or edit the papers of researchers it funds.

But back to the emails, when ACC says there's no there there in them, don't believe it.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
GMO

In Blow to Monsanto, Arkansas Ban on Controversial Herbicide to Remain

Monsanto lost its bid to overturn Arkansas' ban on dicamba, a controversial weedkiller linked to extensive damage to famers' crops in the state as well as several other states.

The agribusiness giant makes a version of the herbicide called XtendiMax that's paired with its seeds that are genetically engineered to resist the product. DuPont Co. and BASF SE also sell their own dicamba-based formulations.

Keep reading... Show less
Thrillist / YouTube

Love Vegan Food Videos? Thrillist Has You Covered

By Danny Prater

Looking for great vegan content to watch online? You're not alone. In fact, one study estimated that from 2014 to 2017, the number of people who identified as vegan increased by a whopping 600 percent. And plenty of vegetarians and omnivores are curious about ways that they can reduce their consumption of animal-derived products, too.

Keep reading... Show less

73% of Deep-Sea Fish Have Ingested Plastic

Microplastics can really be found everywhere, even in the stomachs of creatures living deep underwater.

Marine scientists from the National University of Ireland (NUI) in Galway found the plastic bits in 73 percent of 233 deep-sea fish collected from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean—one of the highest microplastic frequencies in fish ever recorded worldwide.

Keep reading... Show less
Nathaniel Currier lithograph, 1852

8 Presidents Who Shaped the U.S. Food System (for Better and for Worse)

By Karen Perry Stillerman

As we observe Presidents Day, I'm thinking about a president's role in shaping the way we grow food in the U.S., and how we eat. Quite a few of our past presidents were farmers or ranchers at some point in their lives, and some had infamous relationships with certain foods, whether cheeseburgers or jelly beans or broccoli.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

New Technology Could Turn Tar Sands Oil Into 'Pucks' for Less Hazardous Transport

By Justin Mikulka

A new technology has the potential to transform the transportation of tars sands oil. Right now, the already thick and slow-flowing oil, known as bitumen, has to be diluted with a super-light petroleum product, usually natural gas condensate, in order for it to flow through a pipeline or into a rail tank car.

However, scientists at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering inadvertently found a way to make tar sands oil even more viscous, turning it into "self-sealing pellets" that could potentially simplify its transport.

Keep reading... Show less
Jaymi Heimbuch / Urban Coyote Initiative

Can Humans, Coyotes and Red Foxes Coexist?

By Jaymi Heimbuch

Coyotes in urban spaces have become the new normal. There is now a large, and growing, population of coyotes in San Francisco. Residents in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver—among many other western cities—have long lived alongside coyotes.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
The royal turtle eggs found by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Wildlife Conservation Society / Facebook

Conservationists Discover Nest of One of World's Rarest Turtles

Conservationists have found a nest of a critically endangered turtle with 16 eggs along the Sre Ambel River system near Preah Angkeo village in Cambodia's Koh Kong province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced Monday.

This is the first nest of the southern river terrapin discovered this year. Four local community rangers have been hired to guard the nest until the eggs hatch.

Keep reading... Show less
Seven of the 13 plaintiffs with their attorney, Andrea Rodgers and her daughter. Our Children's Trust / Facebook

13 Youths 'in a Position of Danger' Sue Washington State Over Climate Crisis

By Andrea Germanos

A group of 13 youths have filed a lawsuit against the State of Washington for breaching its constitutional and Public Trust obligations.

Why? Failure to act on climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!