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‘Apolitical’ New England EPA head nominated to lead office overseeing chemical, pollution safety

Alexandra Dunn, a proud Republican who has been praised for her “apolitical” work as head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office, is slated for a promotion.

President Trump announced his intention to nominate Dunn as assistant administrator to the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, according to a statement from the EPA released Friday.

The office is tasked with protecting the public from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be nominated,” Dunn said in a statement Friday. “If confirmed, I look forward to bringing my best efforts to this very important EPA office.”


This marks the president’s second attempt to fill the seat: In December, he nominated former University of Cincinnati professor and researcher Michael L. Dourson, who, The New York Times reported, withdrew his name from consideration after multiple Republican senators said they wouldn’t support him.

Dunn has walked a fine line as moderate working in an administration largely seen as hostile to conservation and environmental regulation. As the EPA’s Region 1 Administrator, though, she has been commended by New England environmental leaders for working to clean up toxic waste sites and protect the region’s air and water.

Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said Friday that Dunn, an attorney who taught environmental justice at multiple law schools before working at the EPA, “has been very good in this role. She’s been apolitical. She’s been thoughtful.”

Dunn’s nomination comes at “an interesting moment for chemical and toxic management,” Henry said in a phone interview, as the EPA looks to reconsider how it implements the Toxic Substances Control Act, whose enforcement is overseen by the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

“She’s potentially going to do some important work,” Henry said.


The amount of flexibility that Dunn will have to operate is “hard to know,” though, said Henry, who believes Dunn’s work will be more heavily scrutinized by the Trump administration if confirmed to her new position.

The US, Henry said, is decades behind in environmental regulation and “desperately needs to move forward in implementing chemical management and reducing exposure to toxins and carcinogens.”

“I hope [Dunn is] able to take some key step forwards in this role,” she said.

Other advocates, though, have shown skepticism of Dunn, who supported scandal-plagued ex-EPA chief Scott Pruitt in dismantling scientific advisory boards and ending former president Barack Obama’s carbon emission-reduction plans. She has also yet to say whether she believes that the main cause for global warming is human activity.

Before joining the EPA, Dunn was the executive director and general counsel for the Environmental Council of the States, where she “helped state governments improve water infrastructure, reduce air pollution, clean up contaminated sites, manage chemical safety, and enhance economic development,” according to the EPA.

“Ms. Dunn has worked . . . to protect public health and the environment while providing the regulated community the certainty it needs to create jobs and support local economies,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Jackson Cote can be reached at jackson.cote@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.