Vermont Law School Mourns Douglas Costle, Former Dean and Early Leader of EPA

With great sadness we announce the death of Douglas M. Costle, the fourth dean of Vermont Law School. Costle, 79, passed away Jan. 13 at his home in McLean, Va.

VLS President and Dean Thomas McHenry shared the following announcement with students, alumni, faculty and staff:

Doug’s appointment as dean of Vermont Law School in 1987 brought us a proven environmental leader of national renown and his four-year tenure boosted the school’s reputation nationally and internationally.

Doug came to VLS after groundbreaking service in environmental protection. As senior staff associate for environmental and natural resources for the President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization under President Richard Nixon, he headed the study that in 1970 recommended the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Doug served as commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection in the early 1970s and as administrator of the EPA in the Carter administration from March 1977 until January 1981. 

 After his government service, Doug launched the Environmental Testing and Certification Corporation, a national environmental analytical services laboratory in Edison, N.J. He also put his vast knowledge and experience to work as an adjunct lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School and as a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health. He later co-chaired the Carnegie Commission of Science, Technology, and Government Task Force that produced the report “Risk Environment – Improving Regulatory Decision-Making.” In addition, he chaired the board of the Institute for Sustainable Communities and served on the Clinton Administration Transition Team on Energy.

Doug’s inauguration as dean of Vermont Law School placed the school in the national spotlight, increasing applications and energizing the VLS community. Doug assisted the school in a number of major ways, including the planning and fundraising efforts that resulted in construction of the Cornell Library. Doug’s deanship culminated in Vermont Law School achieving the No. 1 position among environmental law programs in the country in peer rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report. When he left the VLS helm in 1991, he could note with pride that Vermont Law School “had hit its stride as a national law school.”

We will miss Doug greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Members of the greater VLS community can share messages of condolence and memories of Dean Costle on the VLS website at An obituary, published by The Washington Post, is available at The Costle family plans a memorial service for later this month. Details are forthcoming.