New England EPA Chief Tapped To Lead National Chemical Safety Office | New Hampshire Public Radio

New England EPA Chief Tapped To Lead National Chemical Safety Office

Sep 3, 2018

New England EPA Administrator Alexandra Dunn, left, talks with Seacoast chemical cleanup activist Jillian Lane after a joint press conference near the Coakley Landfill in June.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency in New England has been tapped to lead the agency's national Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention office.

Alexandra Dunn is a long-time lawyer and environmental justice advocate who’s been the EPA's New England administrator for a little less than a year.

In this and other roles, she's worked with residents, industry and state officials in places like New Hampshire and Vermont to address chemical contamination in drinking water.

(Read more: Dunn met with neighbors of the Coakley Landfill Superfund site in June.)

EPA response in contaminated areas is often more gradual than worried residents would like.

But Vermont's former natural resources secretary, Deborah Markowitz, says Dunn is committed to working with those residents and their local leaders to carry out "cooperative federalism."

"I think in her role, she will be able to help states do their jobs better,” says Markowitz, who's now a visiting professor at the University of Vermont. “And she has a real understanding that our decisions need to be grounded in science."

As head of the EPA chemicals office, Dunn would also oversee enforcement of a 2016 law requiring more oversight of the chemical industry.

The EPA has been slow to implement that law under President Donald Trump. But Markowitz says she believes Dunn intends to do more.

"And we need that,” Markowitz says. “I mean, there's tens of thousands of chemicals in our environment, and we do not know what they do to us."

Markowitz wrote one of several letters supporting Dunn to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which must now confirm the nomination.