Lisa P. Jackson Resigns Cabinet Post as Head of EPA

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By Glynn Wilson

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced Thursday that she is stepping down from the cabinet post to spend more time with her family.

We suspect there is more to this story, but for now let’s just deal with the facts we know.

In announcing her resignation as head of the EPA, Ms. Jackson said she wanted to thank President Obama for the honor of appointing her and the confidence he placed in her four years ago when he announced her nomination.

“At the time I spoke about the need to address climate change,” she said. But she also quoted herself from that time. “There is much more on the agenda: air pollution, toxic chemicals and children’s health issues, redevelopment and waste-site cleanup issues and justice for the communities who bear disproportionate risk.”

She also quoted the president. “You help make sure the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are safe,” President Obama said to agency employees earlier this year. “You help protect the environment not just for our children but their children. And you keep us moving toward energy independence … We have made historic progress on all these fronts.”

So in light of all that, Ms. Jackson said, “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.”

Her resignation comes as no real shock to environmental activists in Washington, D.C., according to Frank O’Donnell with Clean Air Watch.

“This has long been expected, so, in that sense, it isn’t a shock,” he said in an e-mail blast Thursday morning. “Health and environmental advocates will definitely miss her. She has been a real champion for clean air. She is going to be a tough act to follow.”

O’Donnell said Jackson had some very significant wins during her tenure, including overseeing the implementation of strong standards to clean up mercury and other toxic emissions from coal power plants, new fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles and new standards to limit fine particle soot in the air.

“Very significantly, she also reversed the findings of the Bush administration and declared that climate change poses a real threat to health and the environment,” he said. “This so-called endangerment finding was a necessary first step before the EPA could limit vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, power plant emissions, etc. She also reversed the Bush policy and permitted California to move ahead with its own ghg vehicle standards, which then became the model for national standards.”

Jackson also had some real setbacks, he said, including the 2011 decision by the White House to block EPA from updating national clean air standards for smog, or ozone.

“It was an ugly episode as political science trumped real science,” O’Donnell said.

At least the courts have, at least temporarily, stalled her efforts to limit power plant pollution that blows across state lines, he said. “The cross-state pollution issue, the still-controversial ozone question and the need for cleaner, low-sulfur gas will be among the priorities facing her successor.”

© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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