Web Date: December 27, 2012
Environmental Protection Agency Chief Resigns
Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency since shortly after President Barack Obama took office in 2009, announced on Dec. 27 that she will step down from her post in January 2013.
Jackson is among a number of high-ranking Obama Administration officials, including National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco, who have announced they are leaving their positions as the president gears up for his second term.
Jackson, the first chemical engineer and the first African American to captain EPA, advocated for a number of critical policy changes. Some will have environmental and economic repercussions for years to come.
In 2009, she determined that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are pollutants that threaten public health and welfare and thus need regulation under the Clean Air Act. Climate change skeptics in Congress have repeatedly and fervently attacked her for this decision.
She is the first EPA administrator to call for an overhaul of the 1970s-era law that governs the manufacture of commercial chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Jackson in 2009 rolled out the Obama Administration’s principles for reforming TSCA.
The chemical industry has mixed views on Jackson’s tenure at EPA.
“Lisa Jackson’s EPA will be remembered as one of the least collaborative with industry stakeholders,” says William Allmond, vice president of government and public relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates. “The chemical industry has faced increasing and unnecessary regulations under Jackson’s watch in a time when the U.S. economy is struggling to get back on its feet.”
A more tempered opinion comes from the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association. “Although we did not always agree with Ms. Jackson on regulatory policy or objectives, she has been a committed advocate for health and environmental protection,” says a statement from the group.
Environmental advocates, state regulators, and Democrats in Congress are much more positive. In addition to Jackson’s actions on greenhouse gases, they point to regulations to curb mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants as key accomplishments of her tenure.
“Notwithstanding the difficult economic and political challenges EPA faced, her agency was directly responsible for saving the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and improving the health of millions throughout the country,” says S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, a coalition of state regulatory bodies.
Jackson also faced political setbacks, points out Frank O’Donnell, president of the activist group Clean Air Watch. For instance, the White House in 2011 blocked EPA from strengthening national air quality standards for ground-level ozone.
The president, wrestling with the fiscal cliff issue as 2012 comes to a close, is not expected to nominate a successor to Jackson until early 2013.
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