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The Toxic Substances Control Act:
from the perspective of Victor J. Kimm

  • Born: July 4, 1934, New York City, New York

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0679
Interview Date: February 3, 2011
Location: Ropes & Gray, LLP, Washington, D.C.
Interviewer: Jody A. Roberts
No. of pages: 35
Minutes: 92

  Abstract of Interview

Victor J. Kimm received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil (then sanitary) engineering.  When President John F. Kennedy asked what Americans could do for their country, Kimm decided to volunteer in Latin America.  After three years there he spent two years in Washington, D.C., working with labor unions.  Then he went to work at the Economic Development Administration, receiving a one-year fellowship from Princeton University.  Through a Princeton faculty member Kimm obtained a senior post at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation.  He worked on the Safe Drinking Water Act and promoted the states’ efforts to qualify for delegation of implementation responsibilities.  He became Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPTS).  There he oversaw chemical regulation, resulting in reregistration and the modernizing of outdated protocols.  During his ten years as Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPTS was responsible for implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The Office regarded asbestos as the most likely pollutant to establish standards for implementing TSCA Section 6, but it failed the “least burdensome” requirement, in subsequent judicial review. Kimm laments a lack of an appeal by the Department of Justice for the apparent gutting of EPA’s authority to ban substances in products under section 6 of TSCA.

Kimm discusses risk assessment (hazard, risk, cost) and risk management (“how high can you jump”) in TSCA and adds his own third aspect, risk communications.  He praises OPPTS (Office of Pollution, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, which replaced OPTS), its scientists, and its innovations like health advisories and Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).  He discusses the hobbling of regulation by poorly-designed laws like the Delaney Clause.  He laments the complexity of regulation that leads to inconsistent standards for chemical tolerances and that results in an inability to foster the public interest.  He believes that TSCA would be more effective if confidential business information (CBI) exemption were limited and if severer penalties could be levied for not informing the EPA of knowledge of possible harmful chemicals.  He hopes for more resources from Congress and for greater emphasis on alternatives to dangerous substances.

  Education

1956 B.C.E., Civil Engineering, Manhattan College
1960 M.C.E., Civil Engineering, New York University

  Professional Experience

Association for International Development and American Institute

1960 - 1966

Development work in Latin America—as a volunteer with the Association for International Development and then as the Chief of Technical Services for  the American Institute for Free Labor Development

U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

1966 - 1969

Division Director, Economic Development Administration (anti-poverty program)

Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

1969 - 1970

Fellow, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

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

1971 - 1975

Deputy Director, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation

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

1975 - 1985

Director, Office of Drinking Water

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

1985 - 1988

Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances

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

1988 - 1989

Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxics

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

1989 - 1993

Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances

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

1993 - 1994

Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances

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

1994 - 1995

Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances

University of Southern California, Graduate School of Public Administration in Washington, D.C.

1995 - 2001

Distinguished Practitioner in Residence

  Honors

1969 - 1970

National Institute of Public Affairs Fellowship, at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

1979 - 1995

For every year in the Senior Executive Service, received an Outstanding Performance Rating  and Bonus and was promoted to the top ES6 ranking in 1988

1989

Presidential Award, Meritorious Senior Executive

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Education and Early Career 1

Undergraduat    e and master’s degrees.  Association for International Development in Latin America.  Chief of Technical Services, American Institute for Free Labor Development.  Division Director, Economic Development Administration in Department of Commerce.

Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation 2

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Office of Drinking Water; Safe Drinking Water Act.  Primacy and the states.  Policy coordination.  Pesticides.

Deputy/Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances 6

Outdated protocols and reregistration.  Chemical regulation:  hazard, risk, and cost.  Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).  Risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication.  Administrative Procedures Act.  Alar and voluntary cooperation.  

Asbestos as Stalking Horse 12

Asbestos fails Section 6 of TSCA’s “least burdensome” requirement.  Chemicals of concern program.  Lack of constituency.  Lack of Congressional interest through two administrations.  “Pendulum effect”.  Delaney Clause and mandated suppression of innovation or improvement.  Pollution Prevention Act.

Thoughts from Experience 20

Limitations to confidential business information in TSCA.  Penalties for failure to notify EPA of possible harmful chemicals.  Uniform standards for pesticide tolerances in foods.  More resources from Congress.  Improvement in pollution prevention techniques inside plants.  Better understanding of complexity of standards regulation.  Greater emphasis on alternatives to potentially dangerous substances.

Index 26

  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.

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