The Life and Times of a Statute Revealed

For the past eleven months, my colleague Kavita Hardy and I have been conducting interviews with folks to record and uncover the history of the Toxic Substances Control Act. We spoke with twelve individuals who participated in either the drafting or the implementation of the statute to get a sense for the different forces that shape a law.

When we began the project last year, we hoped to shed light on the life of an environmental statute. As stakeholder groups lined up and pushed reform in what has turned out to be the most serious effort to since TSCA became law in 1976, we decide to look backwards to better understand the evolution of the statute. While stakeholders on all sides established battlegrounds—e.g., confidential business information and data sets—we wondered how those issues became issues in the first place. So we interviewed the author of the original statute, J. Clarence “Terry” Davies, as well as Assistant Administrators and Office Directors from EPA spanning the time of initial implementation in 1977 to 2007. As we anticipated, the interviews have highlighted the ways in which law lives and changes long after it leaves the halls of Congress.

Now we’re preparing to make public those interviews and our findings beginning with an event at the American Association for the Advancement of Science on November 19, 2010. The event will be the first of a series being planned for both Washington and here at home in Philadelphia in the coming months. The TSCA Oral History Project itself will become a part of CHF’s growing oral history collection, available for use by scholars visiting CHF.

Posted In: History | Policy

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