Douglas M. Costle, an early architect of the Environmental Protection Agency who became the regulatory agency’s top administrator during the Carter administration and helped initiate the “Superfund” program to clean up hazardous-waste sites, died Jan. 13 at his home in McLean, Va. He was 79.
After working for the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the mid-1960s, Mr. Costle later was named to a White House advisory council with the aim of reorganizing the executive branch.
He was instrumental in outlining the scope of an independent agency designed to coordinate efforts to enforce environmental laws to prevent pollution and protect citizens’ health. President Richard M. Nixon formally launched the EPA by executive order in December 1970.
Mr. Costle was a consultant to the agency during its infancy and later directed the state environmental protection commission in Connecticut before returning to Washington. He was named EPA director in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.
“Clear air is not an aesthetic luxury,” Mr. Costle said upon taking office. “It is a public health necessity.”
Douglas Michael Costle was born July 27, 1939, in Long Beach, Calif., and grew up mostly in Seattle. His father was an engineer, his mother a medical administrator.
He graduated from Harvard University in 1961 and from the University of Chicago law school in 1964. A year before graduating from law school, he did field work for the Justice Department in Mississippi.
After leaving the EPA in 1981, he was an executive with a company that developed environmental testing methods. He was dean of the independent Vermont Law School from 1987 to 1991, helping build one of the country’s premier programs in environmental law.
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