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The Toxic Substances Control Act:
from the perspective of James V. Aidala

  • Born: November 9, 1954, Akron, Ohio

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0660
Interview Date: May 20, 2010
Location: Bergeson & Campbell P.C., Washington, D.C.
Interviewers: Jody A. Roberts and Kavita D. Hardy
No. of pages: 44
Minutes: 97

  Abstract of Interview

James V. Aidala began working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a college intern in the Office of Pesticide Programs; he returned as a policy analyst in the new Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPTS) after graduate school.  From Aidala’s perspective, there was much uncertainty in the early years of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), in part due to challenges with the law’s specificity regarding polychlorinated biphenyls and, later, asbestos and lead, and in part due to logistical, organizational, and legal difficulties in the early years of TSCA.  He also felt that the Reagan administration was fatal to a cohesive toxics program.  

After leaving the EPA Aidala then worked for the U.S. Senate, the Congressional Research Service, and the House of Representatives, where he found that political interest was always more focused on pesticides than toxics.  According to Aidala, the Toxics Release Inventory and the Pollution Prevention Act provided new tools for the toxics office, but also detracted from the core TSCA responsibilities.  When he returned to the EPA as an associate assistant administrator, pesticides continued to be the priority.  Though he found that TSCA prevented crises, it was difficult to get Congress interested and TSCA had a reputation as an overly burdensome law.  The office used voluntary initiatives and other tools to work “under and around” TSCA, while supporting toxics provisions in new laws like the Food Quality Protection Act.  

At the end of the interview, Aidala discusses his belief in the original design of TSCA, but mentions that the legal and political burdens it has amassed require wholesale reform.  He also feels that now is the time for reform, given the consensus among stakeholders, even those who have long ignored TSCA, like non-profits.


1976 B.A., Sociology, Brown University
1976 M.A., Sociology, Brown University

  Professional Experience

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.


Intern, Pesticide Program, Office of Water and Hazardous Materials

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.


Intern, Pesticide Program, Office of Water and Hazardous Materials

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

1979 - 1981

Program Analyst, Office of the Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

1993 - 2000

Associate Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxics

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.

2000 - 2001

Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxics

Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C.

1981 - 1983

Staff Member, Subcommittee on Energy

Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C.

1983 - 1990

Specialist, Environmental and Natural Resources Policy Division

Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

1990 - 1991

Director of Policy Development

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Washington, D.C.

1991 - 1993

Staff Member, Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources

Jellinek, Schwartz, and Connolly, Inc., Arlington, Virginia

2001 - 2003


Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., Washington, D.C.

2003 - present

Senior Government Consultant



Phi Beta Kappa, Brown University

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early career at EPA 1

Internship at Office of Pesticide Programs.  Program analyst for pesticides and toxic substances.  Early TSCA implementation.  Lack of oversight.  Developing standards.  Reagan administration.  Asbestos.

Congressional Years 10

Senate staff.  Limited TSCA oversight.  Early TSCA.  Congressional
Research Service.  Focus on pesticides.  TSCA litigation.  Toxics Release Inventory.  Pollution prevention.  House staff.  

Return to EPA 22

Focus on pesticides.  Appealing to Congress.  Pollution prevention.  
Working “under and around” TSCA.  Voluntary initiatives.  Emerging
end points.  Food Quality Protection Act.

TSCA reform 28

TSCA designed well.  Burdensome litigation.  Politics.  Current pressure for reform.  Pesticides and toxics integration.  Shrinking budget.  Lack of non-profit involvement.  

Index 35

  About the Interviewer

Jody A. Roberts

Jody A. Roberts is the Director of the Institute for Research at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He received his PhD and MS in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and holds a BS in Chemistry from Saint Vincent College. His research focuses on the intersections of regulation, innovation, environmental issues, and emerging technologies within the chemical sciences.

Kavita D. Hardy

Kavita D. Hardy is a research assistant in the Environmental History and Policy Program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. She received a B.A. in Chemistry and in Economics from Swarthmore College.

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