FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sheridan Brown
Grantham, NH – (10/22) A local attorney is asking the New Hampshire Attorney General to investigate whether Chris Sununu illegally intervened with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of out-of-state campaign donors.
On August 22, Sununu wrote the EPA’s Acting Administrator requesting expedited registration of the pesticide Nootkatone for the control of ticks. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) holds the patent for Nootkatone and has licensed it to only two companies.
Sununu has accepted over eight thousand dollars ($8000) from individuals with ties to companies that manufacture pesticides, and at least one contributor is directly linked to a company developing a Nootkatone product.
Steven Palmer of Evergreen, Colorado has given Sununu one thousand dollars ($1000). Palmer is the lobbyist for Swiss Company Evolva, which is currently seeking the EPA registration of Nootkatone that Sununu sought to have expedited.
Meanwhile, Omar Asali of New Cannan, Connecticut, has given seven thousand dollars ($7000) to Sununu. Asali served as CEO of Spectrum Holdings, Inc. until mid-2017 and probably still holds a significant equity stake in the company. Spectrum owns repellant brands Cutter and Repel and insecticide brands Black Flag and Garden Safe.
Attorney Sheridan Brown of Grantham believes Sununu’s intervention may constitute illegal “misuse of position” because of the one clear campaign donor connection and strong possibility of another. It is impossible to determine if Spectrum Holdings is developing a nootkatone product, as CDC’s second licensee has yet to be disclosed.
NH RSA 21-G: 23, II provides that “No executive branch official or classified employee shall use his or her position with the state to secure privileges or advantages for himself or herself, which are not generally available to governmental employees, or to secure governmental privileges or advantages for others to which they are not otherwise entitled.”
Brown charges that Sununu’s intervention with EPA may have used the Governor’s office to influence federal agency decision-making and generate a public relations windfall for donors’ companies developing Nootkatone-based pesticides.
“There is no reasonable explanation for the Governor’s decision to publicize his letter to the EPA regarding Nootkatone other than his desire to generate favorable press for this particular product.”
The Governor somehow knew at the time of his August letter that Nootkatone was “currently under review” by the EPA—even though the agency didn’t provide public notice of that fact and an opportunity for public comment until last Monday, October 15.
Brown is also concerned that Sununu’s request recklessly disregarded the potential harm that Nootkatone could do to bees and other pollinators that are already in serious decline. Although Nootkatone is plant-derived (from oils found in grapefruit peel and Alaska cypress trees) and safe for human consumption, its safety for pollinators cannot be assumed.
Other plant-based pesticides, such as pyrethrins made from Chrysanthemum, have proven toxic to honey bees and bumblebees. A November 2017 article in the Journal of Medical Entomology reported that Nootkatone’s “nontarget effects have not been well characterized.” Still, Sununu sought EPA’s approval within the August-September timeframe so that Nootkatone “could be introduced commercially… in time to provide benefit during next year’s tick and mosquito season.”
“EPA has a required notice and comment process as part of pesticide registration to ensure it makes decisions based upon the best available information. Either the Governor chose not to adequately inform himself about that process, or he hoped EPA would circumvent it. Those are the only ways he could have expected EPA to register Nootkatone in August or September.”
Sununu’s letter lamented that “tick-borne diseases are “ravaging our cats and dogs, as well as the state’s iconic moose population. Indeed, wildlife experts have warned for years that climate change is having a devastating impact upon New Hampshire’s moose population by causing shorter winters that allow tick populations to thrive. A study released just last week by the University of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Fish and Game found that winter ticks are killing 70% of New Hampshire’s moose calves.
“If Chris Sununu was legitimately concerned about wildlife or tourism, he would be listening to wildlife experts and taking action to address climate change—such as promoting the development of clean energy in the state and using his influence to oppose federal rollbacks of clean air regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Spraying pesticide everywhere is not a solution for anyone other than pesticide manufacturers.”
Brown’s complaint to the Attorney General can be found on his site, NH Not for Sale https://nhnotforsale.com/SununuEPA. He has also published a searchable database of Sununu’s campaign contributors and analysis of possible donor influence over policy outcomes at the site.
 See Ropeik, Annie, With Lyme On The Rise, Sununu Asks EPA To Speed Approvals For New Tick Repellants, NHPR, Aug. 24, 2018, available at http://www.nhpr.org/post/lyme-rise-sununu-asks-epa-speed-approvals-new-tick-repellants#stream/0
 See Chris Sununu, Statement of Receipts and Expenditures, Nov. 16, 2016, available at http://cfs.sos.nh.gov/Public/ViewFiledReports. And see Thomaselli, Kristen, Forbes Tate Partners Expands State Government Relations And Public Affairs Practice, July 12, 2017 available at http://forbes-tate.com/2017/07/12/forbes-tate-partners-expands-state-government-relations-and-public-affairs-practice/ (“[Palmer] and his family reside in Evergreen, Colorado”). And see Forbes-Tate Lobbying Registration, U.S. House of Representatives, Feb. 1, 2018, available at http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/ldxmlrelease/2018/RR/300941752.xml , Forbes-Tate Lobbying Report for 2018 Q1, U.S. House of Representatives, Apr. 20, 2018, available at http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/pdfform.aspx?id=300955454 , and Forbes-Tate Lobbying Report for 2018 Q2, U.S. House of Representatives, Aug. 20, 2018, available at http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/pdfform.aspx?id=300977216.
 See Chris Sununu, Statement of Receipts and Expenditures, Aug. 24, 2016, available at http://cfs.sos.nh.gov/Public/ViewFiledReports. And see Virginia Tech Business, Omar Asali: the road to yes, Spring 2018, available at https://www.magazine.pamplin.vt.edu/issues/spring-2018/omar-asali/ ; Milwaukee Business Journal, Spectrum Brands shareholders approve merger; deal closes Friday, July 13, 2018, available at https://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/news/2018/07/13/spectrum-brands-shareholders-approve-merger-deal.html ; and, Spectrum Brands, Our Brands, at http://spectrumbrands.com/OurBrands/pet-home-and-garden.aspx.
 See Environmental Protection Agency, Pesticide Product Registration; Receipt of Applications for New Active
Ingredients, Federal Register, Oct. 15, 2018, available at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-10-15/pdf/2018-22392.pdf .
 See Ginsburg, Howard et al, Management of Arthropod Pathogen Vectors in North America: Minimizing Adverse Effects on Pollinators, Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 54, Issue 6, 7 November 2017, Pages 1463–1475, available at https://doi.org/10.1093/jme/tjx146 .
 See UNH Today, A Population at Risk, Oct. 17, 2018, available at https://www.unh.edu/unhtoday/2018/10/winter-ticks-kill-70-percent-moose-calves-research-shows .