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Monday, September 10, 2012

Revolving

It happens. Doors open and close. For everyone. In this economy, where any job is worthy of consideration, it's not surprising to find people jumping at opportunities that they may not have taken at another point in time.

In that light, Todd Stedeford's appointment (http://tiny.cc/jnkfkw) as Chief of Existing Chemicals Assessment Branch of the EPA is not exciting (check out EPA's cool org chart here: http://tiny.cc/7ukfkw). But it's a bit more than that. It's not just his appointment that is interesting, it's his history. Stedeford has lobbied for under-regulation of household chemicals, managing to insert them into products when there has been substantive evidence of the harm that they cause. His professional achievements are peppered with instances where he has constantly argued for raising the bar for evaluating the process of determining whether chemicals should be allowed into household products.

Require more evidence. That's his mantra. Again, nothing wrong with that, but that's a tactic often used by those opposed to the precautionary principle. Throw caution (and some chemicals) to the wind.

Maybe the issue is the chasm of understanding that exists between lawyers and the rest of the world. The noone-but-my-client, blinders approach is how lawyers are bred to practice, especially disregarding personal considerations or emotions. Maybe during his appointment to the EPA Stedeford will perform his duties diligently and ethically, and everyone who is concerned about this seemingly obvious conflict of interest will be proven wrong.

Still, it seems weird that our government seems to do this time and time again. Perhaps we need more stringent rules regarding conflict of interest before appointing people with a certain past to important governmental positions.