Charles L. Elkins
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
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.
|1967||Yale Law School||JD|
US Office of Management and Budget
US Environmental Protection Agency
Jellinek, Schwartz, and Connolly, Inc.
Chuck Elkins & Associates
Gold Medal for Exceptional Service, US Environmental Protection Agency
Table of Contents
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.
Managerial challenges. Lack of mandate. Congressional hearings. New chemicals program. Existing chemicals program. Asbestos. Testing program.
Building a constituency. Working with industry. Interagency cooperation. Voluntary regulation. Role of Congressional oversight.
Prospects for Reform. TRI.
About the Interviewer
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 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.