Posted on November 29, 2018
On November 29, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, the current nominee to run the government’s most important asbestos regulatory body, appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a confirmation hearing as Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). In a sign of bi-partisan support, she was introduced by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI). Dunn has a strong record as an independent environmental professional/problem solver and she made a solid case for her nomination at the hearing.
Dunn was pressed by Democrats on the Committee to explain how she will turn around a troubled TSCA program and put public health front and center, as supporters of TSCA reform in 2016 demanded. Her answers were positive in tone but non-committal. Clearly, Dunn will face many difficult issues and pressures. Based on her answers, the jury is out on whether she will provide the leadership and willpower required to address the deep frustration of health and environmental groups with the Agency’s indifference to public protection and subservience to the chemical industry under current management.
Senator Merkley was once again a champion for REAL TSCA reform and implementation, but also for an asbestos ban. During the hearing, Sen. Merkley asked Dunn, “Why would we want to give a free pass to any potential use of asbestos in our environment?” Dunn replied “I understand the great concern with asbestos in the environment, and the deaths that have occurred due to asbestos exposure, and I would like to work with your office on this.”
These are positive sentiments but do not shed any light on whether Dunn will take the concrete steps necessary to reverse course on the EPA’s incomplete and weak risk evaluation for asbestos and other failures to take effective and positive action.
It is likely that Dunn will be confirmed soon. Thanks to Ranking Member Carper, our letter was submitted into the record. We are encouraged to see such a well-qualified nominee, be presented, and but we intend to hold Ms. Dunn to a high standard of public service. We believe she has the remarkable opportunity to help restore the commitment of image and reputation of the EPA, by once again making the protection of the public health its number one priority and we will hold her accountable by continuing to advocate for strong and uncompromising action to eliminate the deadly threat of asbestos.
When we work together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish in the name of prevention and safety. For that reason, we look forward to working with her and finally banning the import and use of asbestos in the United States. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”