Glenn Paulson will take over from ‘father of green chemistry’ Paul Anastas at agency

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named its new science adviser, and it appears that his installation will be much smoother than his predecessor’s. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson revealed that Glenn Paulson will ‘soon begin’ his new job in a 24 April announcement.

Paulson, who recently served as associate dean for research at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s (UMDNJ) School of Public Health, succeeds Paul Anastas as EPA’s science adviser.

When the Obama administration nominated Anastas - who is known as the ‘father of green chemistry’ - as the EPA’s science adviser in May 2009, he had to undergo Senate confirmation because of his simultaneous appointment as head of the agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). The process became politicised and was seriously delayed.

Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter blocked Anastas’ nomination over unrelated formaldehyde politics, and it was not until February 2010 that he finally started work. Anastas left the position about two years later to return to Yale University and direct its Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering.

The Obama administration and the EPA may have learned their lesson this time around. Paulson will only serve as the EPA’s science adviser, which allows him to be appointed without the Senate’s blessing. An acting chief of ORD is already in place.

It is a tough time to be the person in charge of providing scientific advice to the EPA on the diverse issues that the agency confronts. These topics, which range from the science underlying clean air and water to the impacts of hazardous substances, have become hot button issues on Capitol Hill.

Tough times

Many Republican lawmakers are accusing the EPA of introducing ‘job-killing’ regulations that burden industry. Meanwhile, their Democratic cohorts are urging the EPA to move faster and more decisively to protect human health and the environment.

‘Given the central place that science holds in the EPA’s decisions and actions, Dr Paulson will play an important role in the work ahead,’ Jackson said. ‘He brings with him years of experience in science and policy issues, extraordinary performance in multiple fields and an unwavering dedication to the integrity that defines this agency’s scientific work.’

Paulson’s career highlights include serving as assistant commissioner for science at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and directing the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) scientific support programme. In addition, Paulson has founded his own environmental and energy consulting firm.

But, in reaction to Paulson’s appointment, some of the EPA’s detractors on Capitol Hill are criticising the agency as rife with former NRDC employees. However, there appears to be little recourse if they don’t approve of the EPA’s new science czar.

Meanwhile, the American Chemical Council says it’s committed to working with Paulson to ensure that sound science is the foundation for the EPA’s decision-making regarding chemicals. ‘We encourage Dr Paulson to follow through on the agency’s commitment to make fundamental improvements to current policies and procedures so that it delivers more accurate and credible assessments of chemicals,’ the trade group said.

Rebecca Trager