WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday tapped a chemical industry insider to run the Environmental Protection Agency office that oversees emergency response to hazardous spills and cleanups of the nation’s most toxic sites.
The White House announced that Trump has nominated Peter C. Wright to serve as EPA’s assistant administrator for Land and Emergency Management. Wright has worked as a corporate lawyer at Dow Chemical Co. since 1999.
Despite Trump’s campaign pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Wright’s nomination is the latest example of the president appointing corporate lawyers or lobbyists to supervise federal offices that directly regulate their former employers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Wright is “exceptionally qualified” to lead the Office of Land and Emergency Management.
“He has the expertise and experience necessary to implement our ambitious goals for cleaning up the nation’s contaminated lands quickly and thoroughly,” Pruitt said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Wright would oversee the EPA office that responds to such large-scale national emergences as oil spills and unauthorized releases of chemicals or radioactive materials. Wright would also oversee the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program.
Dow merged with rival DuPont last year, creating the world’s largest chemical maker. The companies are also financially responsible for cleaning up toxic sites where they caused pollution.
At Dow, Wright has served as managing counsel for environmental health and safety, as well as the company’s principle counsel for mergers and acquisitions. Wright also advised Dow on Superfund cleanups.
An analysis of EPA data by The Associated Press shows Dow and DuPont are listed as responsible parties for more than 100 of the toxic sites currently undergoing or slated for cleanup across the nation.
Dow also provided a $1 million check to Trump’s inaugural committee.
Asked about the potential for conflicts of interest, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said Wright would meet with EPA’s ethics office to discuss his new role.
Associated Press data journalist Angeliki Kastanis contributed to this report.
Follow AP environmental writer Michael Biesecker at http://www.twitter.com/mbieseck