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Former Chemical Lobbyist, Trump EPA Official Confirmed As Second-Ranking N.H. Enviro. Regulator

EPA New England

A former chemical industry lobbyist and top official in the Trump Administration's Environmental Protection Agency will serve as the assistant commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

The Executive Council unanimously confirmed Dennis Deziel, a Goffstown native and UNH graduate, for the post Wednesday. 

Deziel previously worked at the federal Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, then spent five years as the top federal lobbyist for Dow Chemical. He was appointed in 2019 to oversee the EPA in New England under President Trump. 

Dow was known for part of Deziel's time there as DowDuPont, under a merger that dissolved in 2019.

Both companies have historically manufactured harmful PFAS chemicals, which have caused widespread contamination in New Hampshire. The state's lawsuits over that contamination target DuPont among others. Those cases were folded into a large federal docket of similar suits from around the country. 

A spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Services said the agency hasn't immediately identified any conflicts of interest where Deziel might be asked to recuse himself by the state Attorney General's office. 

But during his recent EPA tenure, Deziel did recuse himself from working on a range of issues related to Dow and DuPont, as required by the agency's ethics office. Those recusals included regulatory areas such as energy efficiency and refrigerants, and many Superfund sites -- including six in southern New Hampshire. 

In a 2019 letter on his conflicts to then-EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, Deziel said the agency's ethics office told him that both Dow and DuPont would be considered his former employers for recusal purposes. But he said the ethics rules allowed him to work on "broader issues" with connections to Dow.

Those issues included climate change and PFAS and PCB chemicals. New Hampshire is part of another suite of federal lawsuits against Monsanto over PCB contamination.

The Boston Globe reported in 2019 that environmental groups, after Deziel's EPA appointment, were skeptical he could give fair treatment to issues such as PFAS given his history with the chemical industry.

The EPA does not yet regulate PFAS chemicals, and New Hampshire is one of the only states with its own binding PFAS limits.

State environmental officials frequently work with the EPA on Superfund management, including at sites like the Seacoast's Coakley Landfill where PFAS is an increasing problem. The Department of Environmental Services also manages its own active PFAS contamination sites, such as in Merrimack around the Saint-Gobain plastics factory

The myriad PFAS issues that have emerged in the state in the past several years were largely overseen by Deziel's predecessor at the Department of Environmental Services, former assistant commissioner Clark Freise, who recently retired. 

The state environmental services spokesperson said the agency has yet to determine what Deziel's focus areas will be in his new job. 

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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