James V. Aidala

Born: November 9, 1954 | Akron, OH, US

James V. Aidala began working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a college intern in the Office of Pesticide Programs and 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. After leaving the EPA Aidala then worked for the US Senate, the Congressional Research Service, and the House of Representatives, where he found that political interest was always more focused on pesticides than toxics. 

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0660
No. of pages: 37
Minutes: 97

Interview Sessions

Jody A. Roberts and Kavita D. Hardy
20 May 2010
Bergeson & Campbell P.C., Washington DC

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 US 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.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1976 Brown University BA Sociology
1976 Brown University MA Sociology

Professional Experience

US Environmental Protection Agency

1975 to 1976
Intern, Pesticide Program, Office of Water and Hazardous Materials
1979 to 1981
Program Analyst, Office of the Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances
1993 to 2000
Associate Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxics
2000 to 2001
Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxics

United States Senate

1981 to 1983
Staff Member, Subcommittee on Energy, Committee on Governmental Affairs

Congressional Research Service

1983 to 1990
Specialist, Environmental and Natural Resources Policy Division

Wallace Institute of Alternative Agriculture

1990 to 1991
Director of Policy Development

US House of Representatives

1991 to 1993
Staff Member, Subcommittee on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources, Committee on Energy and Commerce

Jellinek, Schwartz, and Connolly, Inc.

2001 to 2003
President

Bergeson & Campbell P.C.

2003 to 2011
Senior Government Consultant

Honors

Year(s) Award
1976

Phi Beta Kappa, Brown University 

Table of Contents

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. Regan 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 Science History Institute. 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 was a research assistant in the Environmental History and Policy Program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. She received a BA in chemistry and in economics from Swarthmore College.