In early March, President Donald Trump nominated Peter C. Wright to be the assistant administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM). The nomination of Wright is another indication that the Trump administration will continue the practice of nominating industry insiders and corporate lawyers to positions of power. The White House stated that Wright would help develop “legal strategies regarding Superfund sites and other federal and state-led remediation matters.”
The EPA released a statement detailing the nomination and Wright’s employment history:
Since 1999, Mr. Wright has worked at The Dow Chemical Company where he serves as managing counsel for environmental health and safety and principle counsel for all significant mergers and acquisitions. Throughout his career, Mr. Wright has provided legal support for Superfund and other remediation sites. In 2017, he was recognized with a special award for the oversight and reorganization efforts of the remediation portfolio.
Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, applauded the decision, stating that Wright has “the expertise and experience necessary to implement our ambitious goals for cleaning up the nation’s contaminated lands quickly and thoroughly.” Interestingly, Pruitt himself is currently under fire for his recently-exposed connections to lobbyists.
In addition to his work with Dow, Wright’s LinkedIn page lists him as an Environmental Attorney for Monsanto from 1989 to 1996. Wright’s association with The Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto— corporations known for producing hazardous chemicals and pesticides along with genetically engineered seeds— could be an indication that the Trump Administration may have a sympathetic ear for these industries. If so, it would be the continuation of a trend that has extended through the last few American presidencies.
As far back as the Reagan Administration, the U.S. presidency has been bending to the will of biotechnology giants like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta. Former President George H.W. Bush appointed Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Former President George W. Bush was also friendly to the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, appointing individuals like Donald Rumsfeld, a former president of Searle Pharmaceuticals, to Secretary of Defense. The younger Bush also appointed Linda J. Fisher, a Monsanto representative from 1995 to 2000, to second-in-command at the EPA.
One of the most well known examples of this revolving door between chemical companies and the U.S. government is Michael Taylor, a former lawyer for Monsanto. Taylor worked in the Food and Drug Administration during the Nixon and Reagan administrations before serving as a lawyer for Monsanto. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush appointed Taylor as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy. Taylor was also reappointed to the FDA by the Obama administration.