Trump consumer protection nominee faces bipartisan oppositionJune 26, 2020
A Trump administration toxicologist who relaxed rules on dangerous chemicals linked to serious human health problems has generated bipartisan opposition to her nomination to lead the nation’s consumer safety agency.
Democrats and consumer groups for months have been fighting to block Nancy Beck’s nomination to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying she was too cozy with the chemical industry. The commission oversees the safety of 15,000 consumer products, including strollers and toaster ovens.
Now, two Republican senators are throwing Beck’s nomination into doubt.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she would not support Beck because the Trump administration official had helped weaken regulations of a class of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS. The substances have been linked to cancer, birth defects and immune system disorders. Yet they are still used in a host of products, such as firefighting foam, nonstick pans and furniture.
Known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down, PFAS chemicals have also contaminated drinking water across the country, as well as the groundwater near military bases and manufacturing plants.
As a top deputy in the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety unit, Beck sought to weaken regulation of potentially toxic chemicals, including PFAS. Records obtained by congressional Democrats show that after she took a job at the White House last year, she continued to pressure the agency to include a regulatory loophole that would allow imports of products with PFAS to continue.
Beck “is not the right person to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” said Capito, whose state is home to an infamous example of PFAS poisoning that inspired the film “Dark Waters.” “The CPSC chairman should be someone who applies the proper balance between protecting public health and the environment and the needs of our economy.”
Capito’s decision, announced last week after Beck’s nomination hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, poses a serious problem for the Trump administration. The senator serves on the commerce panel, which means the nomination could be deadlocked at a 13-13 vote in committee if all Democrats oppose it, as expected. Though such a tie could still result in Beck’s name being sent to the entire chamber for consideration, it’s unclear whether the White House can muster enough votes to guarantee that outcome.
Representatives of two Republicans on the committee who are up for reelection — Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) — did not respond to emails seeking comment. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who is facing a difficult reelection race, said she would vote against Beck’s nomination if it reached the Senate floor. Republicans control 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats.
Beck, 54, has been praised by the White House and industry groups. In announcing her nomination in March, the…