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The Toxic Substances Control Act:
from the perspective of Charles L. Elkins

  • Born: April 14, 1940, New York City, New York

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0643
Interview Date: April 9, 2010
Location: Washington, D.C.
Interviewers: Jody A. Roberts and Kavita D. Hardy
No. of pages: 37
Minutes: 92

  Abstract of Interview

Charles L. Elkins witnessed the centralization of federal environmental regulation in the early 1970s, first as an Office of Management and Budget examiner and then in the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within the new EPA, Elkins worked in the Office of Categorical Programs, where he was involved with the pre-Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Office of Toxic Substances and the Noise Abatement Program. The categorical programs struggled from a lack of constituency and attention compared to the larger water and air pollution programs of the Office of Media Programs. Elkins became the director of the Office of Toxic Substances in 1986. While there were managerial challenges to running the office, the biggest challenge he faced was TSCA's lack of a coherent mandate; the program instead consisted of several distinct tasks, each beset with procedural impediments. The new chemicals program worked well, and the testing program was considered too unworkable, so he focused on revitalizing the existing chemicals program, primarily by taking action on asbestos. That rule was overturned by the courts.

Elkins laments the lack of involvement by environmental and public health advocates in the Office, limiting the pressure it could exert when negotiating with industry for more stringent voluntary measures. He mentions some voluntary initiatives the Office undertook with industry, and cooperative programs with other federal agencies. He is skeptical that Congressional oversight could have improved the Office's performance. While the Toxics Release Inventory was not a part of the TSCA program, he thinks it was influential in creating a constituency both within EPA and the public for increased data on toxics.

  Education

1962 B.A., Philosophy, Yale University
1967 J.D. Yale Law School

  Professional Experience

U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Washington, D.C.

1967 - 1971

Budget Examiner for Environmental Programs

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

1971 - 1972

Special Assistant to the Administrator

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

1972 - 1973

Principal Deputy to the Assistant Administrator, Office of Categorical Programs

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

1973 - 1974

Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Categorical Programs

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

1974 - 1975

Director of Program and Management Operations, Office of
Water and Hazardous Materials

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

1975 - 1981

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Noise Control Programs,
Office of Air, Noise, and Radiation

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

1982 - 1983

Director, Office of Policy and Evaluation, Office of Air and
Radiation

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

1983 - 1983

Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation

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

1983 - 1985

Director, Office of Program Development, Office of Air and
Radiation

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

1985 - 1986

Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation

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

1986 - 1990

Director, Office of Toxic Substances

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

1990 - 1994

Associate General Counsel

Jellinek, Schwartz & Connolly, Inc., Washington, D.C.

1995 - 1999

Vice President

Chuck Elkins & Associates, Washington, D.C.

1999 - present

President

  Honors

1972

Gold Medal for Exceptional Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early EPA and Early Career 1

OMB budget examiner. Creation of EPA. Creation of the Office of
Toxic Substances. Noise Abatement Control Program. Office of
Categorical Programs and Office of Media Programs.

Implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act 9

Managerial challenges. Lack of mandate. Congressional hearings.
New chemicals program. Existing chemicals program. Asbestos.
Testing program.

TSCA Stakeholders 19

Building a constituency. Working with industry. Interagency
cooperation. Voluntary regulation. Role of Congressional oversight.

Conclusion 26

Prospects for Reform. TRI.

Index 29

  About the Interviewer

Jody A. Roberts

Jody A. Roberts is the Associate Director for the Center for Contemporary History and Policy and the Manager of the Environmental History and Policy Program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Roberts received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and holds a B.S. 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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