Steven D. Jellinek

Born: May 22, 1940 | Brooklyn, NY, US

Steven D. Jellinek received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester and a master’s degree in public affairs from Syracuse University. After several years at the Internal Revenue, he became the first Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and soon the Assistant Administrator for Pesticides and Toxic Substances. TSCA was written with many procedural hurdles and there were many challenges in implementing the new law: no inventory rule and no classificatory system for chemicals; interagency politics that had to be negotiated; little statutorial guidance for prioritizing exiting chemicals, or even defining a chemical of concern; and no technologies of risk assessment or toxicity testing. Jellinek inherited what was considered an inefficient organizational structure in the Office of Toxic Substances. The premanufacturing review process was one of the few immediate successes; industry seemed to really internalize the goal of safer new chemicals. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0653
No. of pages: 28
Minutes: 95

Interview Sessions

Jody A. Roberts and Kavita D. Hardy
29 January 2010
Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Steven D. Jellinek received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester and a master’s degree in public affairs from Syracuse University before accepting a position at the Internal Revenue Service. He was at the Internal Revenue Service for several years before being invited to work with the newly established Council on Environmental Quality. Once the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed, he became the first Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and soon the Assistant Administrator for Pesticides and Toxic Substances. The position was expected to be challenging: TSCA was written with many procedural hurdles and the environmental Congressional committees were not eager to oversee its implementation. The law quickly became an “orphan” in Congress.

Jellinek encountered many challenges in implementing the new law: there was no inventory rule and no classificatory system for chemicals; there were interagency politics that had to be negotiated; there was little statutorial guidance for prioritizing exiting chemicals, or even defining a chemical of concern; and there were no technologies of risk assessment or toxicity testing. The Office of General Counsel advised caution in exercising the new law, and industry was quick to challenge EPA rules. Jellinek inherited what was considered an inefficient organizational structure in the Office of Toxic Substances. The premanufacturing review process was one of the few immediate successes; industry seemed to really internalize the goal of safer new chemicals. Maintaining confidential business information proved to be a burden to a more effective chemicals program.

Jellinek believes that it is the responsibility of policymakers to be precautionary. He repeatedly questioned his decision as assistant administrator not to pressure Congress for a more workable law. From his perspective, a reformed TSCA should strive to reduce the hurdles on EPA action, and he also thinks it might be worth considering a premarket rather than a premanufacture review.  

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1960 University of Rochester BA Political Science
1961 Syracuse University MPA

Professional Experience

Internal Revenue Service

1961 to 1967
Various staff positions
1968 to 1971
Special Assistant to the Assistant Commissioner for Compliance

Executive Office of the President

1971 to 1972
Staff Member, Council on Environmental Quality
1972 to 1973
Senior Staff Member, Council on Environmental Quality
1973 to 1977
Staff Director, Council on Environmental Quality

US Environmental Protection Agency

1977 to 1981
Assistant Administrator for Pesticides and Toxic Substances

Jellinek, Schwartz, and Connolly, Inc.

1981 to 2000
President

Dow AgroSciences

1994 to 2004
Member, Global Environmental Advisory Committee

OMI Corporation

1996 to 2000
Member, Board of Directors

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company

2001 to 2011
Member, Innovation and Technology Advisory Board

Honors

Year(s) Award
1969 to 1970

National Institute of Public Affairs Fellowship, Stanford University

Table of Contents

Education and Early Career
1

Public administration. Internal Revenue Service. President's Council on Environmental Quality. US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Perceptions of the new Toxic Substances Control Act
4

Political difficulties. Procedural hurdles. Reorganizing the Office of Toxic Substances. Absence of congressional advocates. 

Implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act
6

Inventory rule. Naming chemicals. Interagency Testing Committee recommendations. Prioritization. Defining unreasonable risk. General Counsel. Premanufacturing notices. Office organization. Confidential business information. Lack of mandate. Risk assessment and toxicity testing. 

The Inevitability of Being Wrong
17

Precaution versus the "precautionary principle." Asbestos. 

Toxic Substances Control Act Reform
22

Reduce procedural hurdles. Premarket versus premanufacture review. Prolonged Congressional oversight. 

Index
26

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.