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Oral history interview of the toxic substances control act from the perspective of Linda J. Fisher

  • 2010-Mar-05

Linda J. Fisher was the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances; at the time when she became the Assistant Administrator, the Office was primarily focused on pesticides. But, as Fisher recounted, the Office was committed to making the toxics program succeed, often by working around the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) statutory obligations.

While there was some Congressional oversight, there was no public or Congressional force for a reauthorization of the act in the early 1990s. The Office was then given increased responsibilities with the Pollution Prevention Act. This did not replace TSCA’s role in the toxics program, but the Office did reallocate its limited resources accordingly. After the Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA case, and the administration’s decisions not to appeal, Fisher chose not to pursue a revised asbestos rule because, from her perspective, the industry was changing too quickly and, for the most part, moving out of asbestos. The failure of the asbestos rule was extremely demoralizing to the Office, and created an insurmountable barrier to using Section 6, but the Office continued to be productive in its pollution prevention activities, voluntary measures, and international cooperation. Fisher believes that difficulties in implementing TSCA were rooted in the law’s lack of direction, but that since TSCA was written, the way Congress writes laws has matured.

She also believes that a reauthorized TSCA will address the issues of a base set of data and confidential business information and that a stronger TSCA is necessary to accompany the voluntary and pollution prevention measures currently in place. She emphasizes that regulation should address exposures where they occur, whether in the manufacturing process or in products.

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