Democratic lawmakers are asking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate an agency employee based on a recent New York Times article.
House Democrats on the Committee on Energy and Commerce want the OIG to to see what policies EPA has to “prevent conflicts of interest and unethical abuses of power” in regards to EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Deputy Assistant Administrator Nancy Beck.
Democrats cite a recent NYT profile of Beck and her role at the agency, highlighting her past work with the chemical industry’s lobby, the American Chemistry Council (ACC).
While NYT’s article details an internal memo on how Beck’s leadership “underestimation of the potential risks to human health and the environment” from PFOA, and possibly other chemicals, the article doesn’t actually lay out that she did anything unethical or illegal.
On the other hand, NYT’s article, which mostly quotes Beck’s detractors, lays out how Beck has a doctorate in environmental science and has previous experience working for regulatory agencies.
What has Democrats concerned is her five-year stint at ACC, which opposes policies championed by the political left.
Democrats criticized Beck’s implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), arguing she revised some rules with “word-for-word” requests from the chemical industry — Beck, of course, probably wrote those chemical industry proposals herself.
Democrats also criticised how the EPA’s Office of General Counsel approved of Beck’s working on policy matters involving her former employer. EPA general counsel said it would be “impractical” to keep Beck from working on those issues given her expertise and past experience.
“Americans deserve an EPA that protects human health and the environment in an honest and transparent manner,” Democrats wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, which was sent alongside their letter to the OIG.
“We therefore request that you immediately provide the documents requested in June and appear before the Committee to explain this blatant disregard for conflicts of interest and the public interest,” Democrats wrote.
NYT’s profile on Beck sparked a scathing response from EPA.
“No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told NYT via email.
“The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country,” Bowman said.
The NYT article was also criticized by Alex Berezow, a senior fellow at the American Council on Science and Health.
“In his opinion piece, which masquerades as objective reporting, Dr. Beck is contaminated because she spent five years at the American Chemistry Council,” Berezow wrote in his critique.
“To hammer the point home, [NYT] uses the term ‘chemical industry’ 17 times in the article,” Berezow wrote. “As is typical, the article doesn’t discuss science to any appreciable extent; instead, it just assumes that any chemical with a scary-sounding name is evil, and therefore so is anybody who favors using it.”
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