E&C Democrats Want Answers on Whether Industry Influenced EPA’s Efforts to Suppress Public Health Study
Energy and Commerce Democratic leaders sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt today demanding answers on the role industry interests may have played in the agency’s efforts to suppress a public health study on the human health risks of a class of chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds (PFAS). The study appears to confirm other assessments finding that these chemicals are dangerous to human health at much lower levels than EPA’s current health advisories and can cause human health risks including cancer, immune effects, and birth defects.
The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) and full committee Vice Ranking Member Kathy Castor (D-FL).
In their letter, the Democrats question a previously undisclosed January 2017 meeting between EPA and the chemical industry on PFAS that appears to have occurred one day after an internal email exchange between top agency officials detailing their efforts to suppress the release of the study. Chemical industry companies responsible for sites contaminated with PFAS, including DuPont, Chemours, and 3M, would have a vested interest in suppressing the study, conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
“Given industry’s interest in the ATSDR assessment, we are concerned by an entry from Dr. Yamada’s calendar,” the Democrats continued. “On January 31, 2018 at 1 pm, it appears that Dr. Yamada attended a meeting entitled ‘ACC Cross-Agency PFAS Effort.’ We are concerned that this could indicate that Dr. Yamada, and potentially other EPA political appointees, were meeting with outside stakeholders from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to discuss the interagency process related to PFAS, and possibly their efforts to suppress the ATSDR assessment.”
According to the email exchange released last week, Pruitt’s Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, former top chemical industry lobbyist Dr. Nancy Beck, and Dr. Richard Yamada were all involved. In one exchange on withholding the study an agency official wrote, “[t]he public, media, and Congressional reaction to these new numbers is going to be huge. The impact to EPA and DOD is going to be extremely painful. We (DOD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”
“We are deeply concerned that these actions appear to indicate that politics, and potentially industry interests, are being placed before public health,” the four Democrats continued in their letter.
As part of their inquiry to determine whether efforts to suppress the study violated ethics regulations and waivers, Committee Democrats are requesting additional details on communications between EPA political appointees and chemical industry stakeholders, including:
- All email communications between Ryan Jackson, Dr. Richard Yamada, and Dr. Nancy Beck and any employee or representative of the American Chemistry Council, DuPont, Chemours, and 3M;
- A list of all meetings, including teleconferences, with representatives or employees of the American Chemistry Council, DuPont, Chemours, and 3M;
- Any documented guidance from EPA’s ethics officials authorizing Dr. Nancy Beck’s participation in matters affecting her former employer the American Chemistry Council;
- A list of individuals who requested the January 31, 2018 meeting with the American Chemistry Council and EPA officials.
The letter is available HERE.