Politics & Government

US Sens. Burr, Tillis help sink Trump’s pick for EPA chemical office

In this Sept. 20, 2017, file photo, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis issued statements Nov. 15, saying they will vote against Michael Dourson to serve as head of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
In this Sept. 20, 2017, file photo, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis issued statements Nov. 15, saying they will vote against Michael Dourson to serve as head of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. AP

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead a key Environmental Protection Agency department has withdrawn his nomination — weeks after North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis announced that they would not support him.

Michael Dourson, Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, withdrew Wednesday, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Tillis said last month that he could not support Dourson — who had close ties to the chemical industry — because of his concerns about N.C. water contamination issues at Camp Lejeune and near Wilmington.

“We are not quite comfortable with his responses and posture on a few things,” Tillis said.

Said Burr in a statement: “With his record and our state’s history of contamination at Camp Lejeune as well as the current GenX water issues in Wilmington, I am not confident he is the best choice for our country.”

At Camp Lejeune, nearly 750,000 people were exposed to contaminated drinking water, which led to a host of illnesses and cancers.

In Wilmington, officials are trying to solve the GenX problem, which state officials believe has been caused by the release of chemical manufacturing byproducts into the Cape Fear River.

Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the Senate, a number that will fall to 51 when Doug Jones is seated from Alabama. Without the support of Tillis and Burr, Dourson faced a tough confirmation fight, especially with Susan Collins, R-Maine, signaling that she might not support Dourson either.

“He is an extreme example of really putting an industry advocate in a position that is supposed to be a neutral public-health oriented position,” said Jerry Ensminger, a White Lake resident whose daughter Janey died of cancer after living at Camp Lejeune. Ensminger met with Burr, Tillis and other senators to lobby against Dourson.

“This is one of the more extreme examples we’ve seen of that.”

Brian Murphy: 202-383-6089, @MurphinDC

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