Energy & Environment

Key Republican jeopardizes nomination of Trump consumer safety pick

A key Republican will oppose President Trump’s nominee to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), setting the nomination up for a possible failure. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) will vote to oppose Nancy Beck’s nomination for the chair of the consumer safety agency, which, barring a Democratic defection, would lead to a 13-13 vote and the ultimate failure of the nomination. 

Capito cited Beck’s record on the regulation of a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS in her decision. 

“Nancy Beck’s record as it relates to PFAS chemicals, as well as her responses to my questions and the questions of other Senators at yesterday’s Commerce Committee hearing have led me to conclude that she is not the right person to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Capito said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday. 

“I will vote against Dr. Beck’s confirmation in both the Commerce Committee and on the Senate floor,” the senator added. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is not on the Commerce panel, also said that she would oppose Beck’s nomination if it came to the full Senate. 

“Based on her record at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the White House, I do not believe that Dr. Nancy Beck’s views on chemical safety, including on PFAS substances and asbestos, align with the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s mission,” Collins said in a statement. “I plan to oppose her nomination to lead the CPSC.”

Following the release of Capito’s statement, Sen. Tom Udall (D-Utah), who has been one of Beck’s most vocal opponents, called on the White House to rescind her nomination.  

“The White House should withdraw her nomination and instead nominate an independent watchdog who has demonstrated that they will look out for the safety of American consumers,” he said in a statement.

Beck is a former employee of the American Chemistry Council, a group that advocates for the chemical industry. Beck also held a top chemicals role at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Trump administration and was subsequently detailed to the White House. 

During a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, senators including Capito questioned Beck on her role in regulating PFAS and other chemicals. 

PFAS chemicals, sometimes called “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in the human body and the environment, can be found in a variety of household items as well as firefighting foam. 

“At every turn, your name has been implicated in the media in the slow-walking of the federal response,” Capito said to Beck on Tuesday, referring to government action about the chemicals.

Asked why her name is frequently associated with slowing regulations Beck said, “I don’t know. I think there’s a concern that I’ve spent some time in industry so they want to say that industry is holding things up.”

“But in my case, that hasn’t been the case because I’m not, for instance, a decisionmaker on the [Maximum Contaminant Level.]”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also grilled Beck on PFAS, asking whether she tried to weaken PFAS regulations during her time at the White House by allowing companies to have a safe harbor from enforcement if they didn’t know they were supposed to make sure PFAS was removed from their products. 

“I did not weaken or delay any PFAS rules,” Beck said, adding the EPA “has the pen” on a draft regulatory document that Cantwell was referring to. 

Beck also declined to answer a question from Cantwell about whether she thinks companies should have a safe harbor. 

Earlier this year, Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) office released documents showing that White House officials pushed for a safe harbor for PFAS importers in a proposed rule that the EPA was developing. 

In a letter to EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler from that time, the Delaware Democrat accused Beck of seeking “ to make it more difficult for EPA to use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to protect Americans” from PFAS. 

Beck was a controversial pick for the role, and a group of more than 90 scientists wrote to the committee last week to express their opposition toward her nomination. 

“Beck’s approaches consistently disregarded scientific best practices, favor chemical manufacturers, and put vulnerable populations in harm’s way,” they wrote. 

However, more than 30 groups representing various industries wrote a letter in support of Beck’s nomination on Monday, saying she “possesses the qualifications and skill set needed to serve effectively on the CPSC.” 

Tags Andrew Wheeler chemicals Consumer Product Safety Commission Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC Donald Trump Maria Cantwell Nancy Beck PFAS Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Tom Carper Tom Udall

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