Victor J. Kimm

Born: July 4, 1934 | New York, NY, US

Victor J. Kimm received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil (then sanitary) engineering.  After some time volunteering in Latin America and working with labor unions in DC, Kimm went to work at the Economic Development Administration. He obtained a senior post at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation and worked on the Safe Drinking Water Act, promoting the states’ efforts to qualify for delegation of implementation responsibilities. He became Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances. During his ten years as Deputy, OPTS was responsible for implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act. Kimm discusses risk assessment management in TSCA and adds his own third aspect, risk communications. He praises OPPTS, its scientists, and its innovations. He laments the complexity of regulation that leads to inconsistent standards for chemical tolerances and results in an inability to foster the public interest. He hopes for more resources from Congress and for greater emphasis on alternatives to dangerous substances. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0679
No. of pages: 28
Minutes: 91

Interview Sessions

Jody A. Roberts and Kavita D. Hardy
3 February 2011
Ropes & Gray, LLP, Washington, DC

Abstract of Interview

Victor J. Kimm received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil (then sanitary) engineering. When President John F. Kennedy asked what Americans could do for their country, Kimm decided to volunteer in Latin America. After three years there he spent two years in Washington, DC, working with labor unions. Then he went to work at the Economic Development Administration, receiving a one-year fellowship from Princeton University. Through a Princeton faculty member Kimm obtained a senior post at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation. He worked on the Safe Drinking Water Act and promoted the states’ efforts to qualify for delegation of implementation responsibilities. He became Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPTS). There he oversaw chemical regulation, resulting in reregistration and the modernizing of outdated protocols. During his ten years as Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPTS was responsible for implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Office regarded asbestos as the most likely pollutant to establish standards for implementing TSCA Section 6, but it failed the “least burdensome” requirement, in subsequent judicial review. Kimm laments a lack of an appeal by the Department of Justice for the apparent gutting of EPA’s authority to ban substances in products under section 6 of TSCA.     

Kimm discusses risk assessment (hazard, risk, cost) and risk management (“how high can you jump”) in TSCA and adds his own third aspect, risk communications. He praises OPPTS (Office of Pollution, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, which replaced OPTS), its scientists, and its innovations like health advisories and Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). He discusses the hobbling of regulation by poorly-designed laws like the Delaney Clause. He laments the complexity of regulation that leads to inconsistent standards for chemical tolerances and that results in an inability to foster the public interest. He believes that TSCA would be more effective if confidential business information (CBI) exemption were limited and if severer penalties could be levied for not informing the EPA of knowledge of possible harmful chemicals. He hopes for more resources from Congress and for greater emphasis on alternatives to dangerous substances.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1959 Manhattan College BCE Civil Engineering
1960 New York University MCE Civil Engineering

Professional Experience

Society for International Development

1960 to 1966
Volunteer

American Institute for Free Labor Development

1960 to 1966
Chief of Technical Services

US Department of Commerce

1966 to 1969
Division Director, Economic Development Administration

Princeton University

1969 to 1970
Fellow, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

US Environmental Protection Agency

1971 to 1975
Deputy Director, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation
1975 to 1985
Director, Office of Drinking Water
1985 to 1988
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances
1988 to 1989
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxics
1989 to 1993
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances
1993 to 1994
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances
1994 to 1995
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances

University of Southern California

1995 to 2001
Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Graduate School of Public Administration

Honors

Year(s) Award
1969 to 1970

National Institute of Public Affairs Fellowship, at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University

1979 to 1995

For every year in the Senior Executive Service, received an Outstanding Performance Rating and Bonus, and was promoted to the top ES6 ranking in 1988

1989

Presidential Award, Meritorious Senior Executive 

Table of Contents

Education and Early Career
1

Undergraduate and master's degrees. Association for International Development in Latin America. Chief of Technical Services, American Institute for Free Labor Development. Division Director, Economic Development Administration in Department of Commerce. 

Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation
2

US Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Drinking Water; Safe Drinking Water Act. Primacy and the states. Policy coordination. Pesticides. 

Deputy/Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances
6

Outdated protocols and reregistration. Chemical regulation:  hazard, risk, and cost. Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication. Administrative Procedures Act. Alar and voluntary cooperation. 

Asbestos as Stalking Horse
12

Asbestos fails Section 6 of TSCA’s “least burdensome” requirement. Chemicals of concern program. Lack of constituency. Lack of Congressional interest through two administrations. “Pendulum effect.” Delaney Clause and mandated suppression of innovation or improvement. Pollution Prevention Act.

Thoughts from Experience
20

Limitations to confidential business information in TSCA. Penalties for failure to notify EPA of possible harmful chemicals. Uniform standards for pesticide tolerances in foods. More resources from Congress. Improvement in pollution prevention techniques inside plants. Better understanding of complexity of standards regulation. Greater emphasis on alternatives to potentially dangerous substances. 

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.