The Gowanus Canal, a designated federal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s task force that oversees the cleanup of some of the country's most contaminated sites, will be led by a former lawyer for a plastics and chemicals company, the AP reports.

Why it matters: Steven Cook, the new chair of the Superfund Task Force, has reportedly worked more than 20 years as a corporate counsel for LyondellBasell Industries — one of the country’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies that the EPA has suspected of polluting some three dozen sites.

The details: The task force is overseeing the cleanups of more than 1,300 toxic sites. The AP reports that Cook signed a memo in April recusing himself from regulatory matters involving LyondellBasell. But he’s allowed to participate in matters involving the company if the decision would also affect five or more other companies.

  • Cook joined the agency in February as deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management.

What they're saying: Agency spokesman Lincoln Ferguson told the AP: "All EPA employees receive ethics briefings when they start and continually work with our ethics office regarding any potential conflicts they may encounter while employed here. Steven Cook is no different."

  • Pattie Shieh-Lance, a LyondellBasell spokeswoman, told the AP the company has "resolved its Superfund obligations nearly a decade ago" and it "does not currently have any such obligations."

The bigger picture: An AP analysis found that nearly half the EPA's political appointees under the current administration have close industry ties. Of the more than 60 hires tracked last year, the publication said about one-third worked as registered lobbyists or attorneys for chemical companies, fossil fuel manufacturers or other EPA-regulated companies.

Go deeper

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:15 a.m. ET: 30,539,903 — Total deaths: 952,629— Total recoveries: 20,800,482Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:15 a.m. ET: 6,726,353 — Total deaths: 198,603 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19 — Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As the coronavirus pandemic drags into its seventh month, it remains an open debate whether the U.S. should aim for the elimination of COVID-19 — and whether we even can at this point.

Why it matters: This is the question underlying all of the political and medical battles over COVID-19. As both the direct effects of the pandemic and the indirect burden of the response continue to add up, we risk ending up with the worst of both worlds if we fail to commit to a course.

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.