J. Clarence Davies

Born: November 16, 1937 | New York, NY, US

J. Clarence Davies’s interview begins with a discussion of his education, and his uncertainty over whether to become an activist or academic. Davies briefly worked at the Office of Management and Budget as the examiner for the environment, where he found himself continually bombarded by chemical crises. He returned to academia, where he wrote an influential book on pollution and chemical regulation, The Politics of Pollution, but was quickly drawn back to government work. Davies soon became involved with the Ash Council, creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Throughout the interview Davies discussed the difficulties in implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act. According to Davies, the most important elements of TSCA to address in reform will be the burden of proof in TSCA, the way new chemicals are treated and defined, a re-emphasis on the cross-media capabilities of TSCA, and confidential business information.   

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

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0640
No. of pages: 35
Minutes: 120

Interview Sessions

Jody A. Roberts and Kavita D. Hardy
30 October 2009
Resources for the Future, Washington, DC

Abstract of Interview

J. Clarence Davies’s interview begins with a discussion of his education, and his uncertainty over whether to become an activist or academic.  He settled on becoming a professor of public administration, but realized he wanted to have experience working in government.  Davies briefly worked at the Office of Management and Budget as the examiner for the environment, where he found himself continually bombarded by chemical crises.  He returned to academia, where he wrote an influential book on pollution and chemical regulation, The Politics of Pollution, but was quickly drawn back to government work.  Davies soon became involved with the Ash Council, creating the Environmental Protection Agency.  Once at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), he was asked to draft a proposal for a chemical regulation policy; the legislation underwent several iterations as it proceeded through the administration and Congress.  Although it eventually passed, it ended up severely weakened.  After his time at the CEQ, Davies continued to work on the regulation of chemicals at several non-profit organizations and at the EPA. 

Throughout the interview Davies discussed the difficulties in implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act.  These included: reaching consensus on the definition of unreasonable risk; developing criteria for risk-assessment; the lack of toxicity data the legislation was able to procure; and crafting testing rules.  He also emphasized the legal constraints within TSCA that hindered creating an effective chemicals control policy and the long overdue need for TSCA reform.  Davies concluded the interview by commenting on the fact that a new European chemicals policy and increased regulatory activity among the States, as well as attention from prominent environmental groups, has driven the current TSCA reform process.  According to Davies, the most important elements of TSCA to address in reform will be the burden of proof in TSCA, the way new chemicals are treated and defined, a re-emphasis on the cross-media capabilities of TSCA, and confidential business information.   

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1959 Dartmouth College BA American Government
1965 Columbia University PhD American Government

Professional Experience

Bowdoin College

1963 to 1965
Instructor in Government and Director of the Bureau for Research in Municipal Government

Executive Office of the President

1965 to 1967
Chief Examiner for Environmental and Consumer Protection, Bureau for the Budget
1970 to 1973
Senior Staff Member, Council on Environmental Quality

Princeton University

1967 to 1970
Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs

Resources for the Future

1973 to 1976
Fellow and Assistant Director, Institutions and Public Decisions Division
1992 to 2000
Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Risk Management
1992 to 2010
Senior Fellow, Risk, Resources, and Environmental Management Division

The Conservation Foundation

1976 to 1989
Executive Vice President

US Environmental Protection Agency

1989 to 1991
Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Evaluation

National Commission on the Environment

1991 to 1992
Executive Director

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

2005 to 2010
Senior Advisor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1959

Phi Beta Kappa

2000

Elected Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science 

Table of Contents

Education and Early Career
1

Dilemma of being an activist or academic. Professor of public administration. Desire to have experience in government. Office of Management and Budget. Return to academia. Writes book on pollution. Consultant to Ash Council and creation of Environmental Protection Agency.

Council on Environmental Quality
9

Responsibilities at Council. Drafting a proposal for chemicals legislation. Goals of pre-market clearance and burden of proof on industry.

Redrafting the Toxic Substances Control Act
10

Debates within administration. Negotiations in Congress. Transformation of law. Lack of public interest. Goal of addressing “chemical of the month syndrome.”  Enactment.

Career Post-Council on Environmental Quality
14

Resources for the Future. Conservation Foundation. Environmental Protection Agency. Return to Resources for the Future. Retirement. Project on Emerging Technologies.

Implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act
21

Substantial risk notifications. State of science. Risk assessment. Lack of data. Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA. Unreasonable risk. Testing rule. Legal constraints. Anti-regulatory environment in government.

Toxic Substances Control Act Reform
23

Lack of initiative. European chemicals policy. Role of state regulations. Burden of proof. Nanotechnology and new chemicals. Public participation. Confidential business information.

Index
34

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.