EPA Head Jackson to Resign Post

 
By Juliet Eilperin
     Dec. 27 (Washington Post) -- Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who pushed through the most
sweeping curbs on air pollution in two decades, announced
Thursday morning she will resign her post.
     Jackson, who will step down shortly after President Obama's
State of the Union address next month, has not accepted another
job at this time, according to several individuals who have
spoken with her. Many expected she would not remain for the
administration's second term; Jackson herself joked about it
recently.
      Outspoken on issues including climate change and the need
to protect disadvantaged communities from experiencing a
disproportionate amount of environmental harm, Jackson pressed
for limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants as well as
the dumping of mining waste into nearby streams and rivers.
     The slew of rules EPA enacted over the past four years —
including the first-ever greenhouse gas standards for vehicles,
cuts in mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants and a
tighter limit on soot, the nation's most widespread deadly
pollutant — prompted many congressional Republicans and business
groups to suggest Jackson was waging a "war on coal." But it also
made Jackson a hero to the environmental community, who viewed
her as their most high-profile advocate within the Obama
administration.
     In a statement, Jackson thanked President Obama "for the
honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four
years ago this month when he announced my nomination," and noted
the agency had taken action on issues ranging from global warming
to water quality.
     "So, I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in
the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges,
time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference,"
she said.
     The president issued a statement praising Jackson.
     "Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and
important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we
drink, including implementing the first national standard for
harmful mercury pollution, taking important action to combat
climate change under the Clean Air Act, and playing a key role in
establishing historic fuel economy standards that will save the
average American family thousands of dollars at the pump, while
also slashing carbon pollution," Obama said.
     It remains unclear how ambitious an agenda EPA will pursue
in Obama's second term, although environmental leaders have
called on the president to limit greenhouse gas emissions from
existing power plants. EPA will soon finalize the first carbon
standard for new power utilities, but the White House has yet to
decide whether to impose limits on existing facilities, according
to several individuals who have been briefed on the matter but
asked not to be identified because no final decision has been
made.
     Many of the most significant regulations EPA enacted over
the past four years arose from settlements with environmental
groups, which had challenged rules the agency issued under
President George W. Bush.
     The agency is likely to tackle several other controversial
policy questions beyond climate change during the next few years,
including stricter regulation of toxic chemicals and water
quality. It is also in the midst of a long-term study of how
hydraulic fracturing is affecting the environment, which could
trigger new federal rules governing natural gas extraction.
     Obama has not picked Jackson's successor, although two of
the leading candidates for the job already work at the EPA:
Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and Gina McCarthy, who heads
the agency's air and radiation office. Jackson has told several
people she considers Perciasepe, who headed both EPA's water and
air and radiation office under President Bill Clinton, as
well-prepared to take the agency's helm.
     While Jackson successfully pushed for a number of landmark
environmental initiatives, including limits on nutrient pollution
flowing from several states into the Chesapeake Bay, she also
suffered a high-profile setback when Obama pulled an EPA proposal
last year to curb smog-forming ozone pollution. At the time, the
president argued that the new rules would unnecessarily damage
the economy and was not essential because the agency was slated
to review the issue in 2013.
     The child of a postal worker who grew up in New Orleans'
Ninth Ward, Jackson often spoke of her personal life history when
explaining her public policy decisions. When discussing climate
change and environmental disasters she recalled driving her
mother, stepfather and aunt out of the city in the face of
Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed her mother's home; when
announcing new air quality rules she frequently referred to the
agony she felt as a mother watching her infant son struggle with
asthma. During an interview with The Washington Post, she once
started singing Stevie Wonder's 1973 hit "Living for the City" to
describe how far the country had come in terms of cleaning up air
pollution.
     While she managed to charm some of her critics — Sen. James
M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) referred to Jackson as "my favorite
bureaucrat" — the EPA administrator alienated much of the
business community. In a recent call with reporters about soot
emissions limits, Ross Eisenberg, vice president for energy and
resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers,
complained that Jackson and her deputies consistently failed to
achieve a balance when regulating pollutants from industrial
activities.
     "EPA seems wedded to the notion that it must push its
policies as hard as it possibly can, with the goal being to enact
the strictest possible standard that will survive legal
scrutiny," Eisenberg said. "That's not EPA's job."
     Jackson has told friends she is open to pursuing consulting
and public speaking and misses New Jersey, which is where she and
her family lived before moving to Washington in 2009. Her name
has been floated as a possible candidate for the presidency of
Princeton University, where she received a graduate degree in
engineering.
     eilperinj@washpost.com

Bloomberg reserves the right to edit or remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.