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. firstname.lastname@example.org
EPA Head Jackson to Resign Post
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