The Trial Lawyer Fall 2017 - Page 69

Critics point to Texas as an example of how cronyism could impact Dourson’s work at the EPA. A boom in the oil and gas industry boom is blamed for air pollution problems in the Lone Star State. According to media reports, Dourson is good friends with fellow scientist Michael Honeycutt, the man in charge of the Toxicology Division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which evaluates the risk of toxic chemicals used in the state. Since 2007, most of the chemicals the department evaluated are less protective than they used to be. Honeycutt hired Dourson’s company to help review those chemical reports, however Honeycutt also participates in the peer-reviews of various evaluations. He claims he recuses himself from projects related to the state commission, but agency watchdogs say the move erodes trust. There are other examples the lead some to question Dorson’s loyalty and the credibility of industry funded science, or “junk science.” Dourson was recently questioned by attorneys about consulting for the tobacco industry, to which he answered, “Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He had dinner with them.” His answer led to a follow up question asking if he was the prostitute. There are also concerns about industry funded data, published on TERA’s website that gives these studies an element of credibility they may not normally have. A recent lawsuit against the giant agrogchemical and biotechnology corporation, Monsanto, brought the issue of industry funded science, or “junk science,” further into the light. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs’ lawyers suing Monsanto claim the company was responsible for ghostwriting an academic study that found an active chemical in the pesticide Roundup, was not a harmful, cancer causing ingredient. Although Monsanto denied the charge, the Roundup study appeared in 2000, in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, the journal of the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, where Dourson sits on the journal’s editorial board. Environmental professor David Michaels at the George Washington University School of Public Health calls the publication a “vanity journal that publishes mercenary science created by polluters and producers of toxic chemicals to manufacture uncertainty about the science underlying public-health and environmental concerns.” When scientific reports are funded and drafted by corporations, then published in scientific journals, or seemingly endorsed by companies like TERA, they are then used to sway government decisions and court cases. If Dourson’s nomination is confirmed, environmentalists and industry watchdogs worry he’ll put industry profits over the public’s best interests. The Trial Lawyer x 67