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DDT WarsRescuing Our National Bird, Preventing Cancer, and Creating EDF$
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Charles F. Wurster

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190219413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190219413.001.0001

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Changes in Washington Affect the DDT Battle

Changes in Washington Affect the DDT Battle

9 (p.123) Changes in Washington Affect the DDT Battle
DDT Wars

Charles F. Wurster

Oxford University Press

Late in 1970, President Nixon proposed and Congress approved creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the process transferring the Pesticide Regulation Division from USDA to EPA. For pesticide regulation, this was no minor matter. The transfer was from USDA, an agency that primarily protected pesticide manufacturers and promoted their products, to EPA, an agency that was directly charged with protecting the environment. That was to make a large difference in how the DDT issue would be resolved. The first administrator of EPA was William D. Ruckelshaus, an attorney with a sterling record of public service in government. The other major item was the decision on DDT from the DC Court of Appeals. On January 7, 1971, the court ordered Ruckelshaus to immediately cancel all registrations of DDT and to determine whether DDT was “an imminent hazard to the public” and therefore should be suspended. The court was clearly annoyed by USDA’s failure to give adequate reasons for not suspending, so “it will be necessary to remand the case once more, for a fresh determination” of the matter of suspension. The court had taken away the discretion usually afforded a federal agency and ordered it to take action. This was an unprecedented decision. EPA had only been created on December 2, 1970; Ruckelshaus barely had time to find his telephone before this court order landed on his desk as his first order of business. Perhaps the most important part of this decision was that EDF survived USDA’s motions to throw our case out of court. The standing for citizens to sue the government, previously unavailable, had now been established by this precedent-setting decision. This was the firm beginning of what we now call “environmental law.” But you should not take the legal conclusion of a lowly scientist (me). Instead, here are the words of Joseph L. Sax, a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, from his September 30, 1973, letter in support of EDF’s application for the Tyler Ecology Award (we did not get it).

Keywords:   Acorn Days (Rogers), Berlin, Roisman and Kessler law firm, Supreme Court, on EDF standing

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