Beck is in the late stages of being vetted by the White House for the CPSC position, according to the government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. President Trump still needs to formally nominate her for the commission’s top job, which requires Senate confirmation. Beck’s selection was expected to be announced in coming weeks, the officials said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the EPA said Beck’s title is principal deputy assistant administrator of the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. She is detailed to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Beck joined the Trump administration in May 2017, when she was tapped to be a top deputy in the EPA’s toxic chemical unit. She previously had been an executive with the chemical industry’s main trade organization, the American Chemistry Council.
At the EPA, Beck has helped scale back several policies aimed at curbing federal limits on toxic chemicals. The agency reversed course on two powerful solvents linked to neurological defects, TCE and NMP, rather than finalize a ban initiated under President Barack Obama. Last year, her office redefined the way the EPA determines the health and safety risks associated with hazardous chemicals, by focusing on direct physical contact and not their impact through exposure from the ground, air or water.
Beck ran the EPA’s chemical safety office for most of Trump’s first two years in office because the president’s first nominee to head the division, toxicologist Michael Dourson, ran into opposition in the Senate and withdrew his name from consideration in December 2017. In January 2019, the Senate confirmed Alexandra Dapolito Dunn as assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Beck began her White House detail in June.
Beck’s confirmation as CPSC chairwoman would give her day-to-day control of the agency and provide Republicans with a 3-2 advantage on its five-member commission.
The agency is currently led by acting chairman Democrat Robert Adler, who has been in the role two months. He replaced Ann Marie Buerkle, a Republican who had served as acting chairwoman since early 2017.
Buerkle withdrew her nomination to lead the agency earlier this year and departed the CPSC in October, after support to give her a new seven-year term faded with criticism related to the agency’s handling of two high-profile product safety cases.
During Buerkle’s tenure, an investigation by The Washington Post found she had kept the Democratic commissioners in the dark about the agency’s investigation into the safety of Britax’s BOB jogging strollers and then helped end a court case seeking a stroller recall. Buerkle also led the CPSC when the agency was criticized for being slow to force a recall of Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play inclined sleeper, a device tied to more than 30 infant deaths.
Beck’s potential arrival at the CPSC comes as the agency is looking at how to regulate organohalogen flame retardants. The agency has studied the risks of using the flame retardants in children’s products and furniture.
On Wednesday, the CPSC commissioners were set to vote on to whether to leave up or remove an agency guidance document that warned about the chemicals’ potentially toxic effects. The vote was expected to break along party lines, 2-to-2, allowing the guidance document to remain. But that vote was delayed. It is now scheduled to occur this Wednesday.
Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.