Charles F. Lettow
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Charles F. Lettow grew up as a “Sputnik kid,” choosing to study chemical engineering as an undergraduate. He held one job in the chemical industry before serving in the U.S. Army; after his military service he moved into the field of law. He undertook two clerkships, one with the Hon. Benjamin C. Duniway and one with the Hon. Warren E. Burger, and he was then invited to work for the President’s Council on Environmental Quality. There he was involved in the creation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several environmental laws, including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). He and J. Clarence Davies used the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as their primary model for writing a toxics law that would include both a premarket review and imminent hazard provision. According to Lettow, the law was intentionally not prescriptive in order to give the EPA the flexibility to adapt to innovations, changing uses of materials, and new knowledge about materials. Because of the multifunctional nature of chemicals, they opted for a use restriction provision rather than an FDA-style approval process.
At the end of the interview Lettow discusses his belief that the law should have been workable with a creative bureaucracy. He also talks about the debates surrounding the issues of preemption, citizen suits, judicial review, penalties, administrative searches, and confidentiality. While the law underwent changes during the Congressional debates, Lettow believes it was not substantially different from his and Davies’s draft.
|1962||Iowa State University||BS||Chemical Engineering|
Procter & Gamble Company
US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
US Supreme Court
Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, LLP
US Federal Court of Claims
Table of Contents
Chemical engineering. Law school. Federal-state relations. Law clerkships. President’s Council on Environmental Quality. Creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Legal models. Premarmketing review. Imminent hazard provision, Not prescriptive.
Utility of ambiguity. Need for conceptual vision. Other legislative models. Use restrictions.
Office of Management and Budget approval. Preemption. Citizen suits. Judicial review. Penalties. Confidentiality. Responsibility for testing. Not impeding technological innovation.
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.