EPA Head Jackson Resigns

| December 27, 2012
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration’s chief environmental watchdog,  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, is stepping down after a nearly four-year  tenure marked by high-profile brawls over global warming pollution, the  Keystone XL oil pipeline, new controls on coal-fired plants and several other  hot-button issues that affect the nation’s economy and people’s health.     Jackson, the agency’s first black administrator, constantly found herself  caught between administration pledges to solve controversial environmental  problems and steady resistance from Republicans and industrial groups who  complained that the agency’s rules destroyed jobs and made it harder for  American companies to compete internationally.    

The GOP chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred  Upton, said last year that Jackson would need her own parking spot at the  Capitol because he planned to bring her in so frequently for questioning.  Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called for her firing, a stance  that had little downside during the GOP primary.    

Jackson, 50, a chemical engineer by training, did not point to any  particular reason for her departure.  Historically, Cabinet members looking to  move on will leave at the beginning of a president’s second term.    

“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 in a statement.

Jackson gave no  exact date for her departure, but will leave after Obama’s State of the Union  address in late January.  

In a separate statement, Obama said Jackson has been “an important part of  my team.” He thanked her for serving and praised her “unwavering commitment” to  the public’s health.     “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.”

Environmental groups had high expectations for the Obama administration  after eight years of President George W. Bush, a Texas oilman who rebuffed the  agency’s scientists and refused to take action on climate change.  Jackson came  into office promising a more active EPA.  But she soon learned that changes would not occur as quickly as she had  hoped.  Jackson watched as a Democratic-led effort to reduce global warming  emissions passed the House in 2009 but was abandoned by the Senate as economic concerns became the priority.  The concept behind the bill, referred to as  cap-and-trade, would have set up a system in which power companies bought and  sold pollution rights.  

“That’s a revolutionary message for our country,” Jackson said at a Paris  conference a few months after taking the job.    

Jackson experienced another big setback last year when the administration  scrubbed a clean-air regulation aimed at reducing health-threatening smog.  Republican lawmakers had been hammering the president over the proposed rule,  accusing his administration of making it harder for companies to create jobs.  She also vowed to better control toxic coal ash after a massive spill in  Tennessee, but that regulation has yet to be finalized more than four years  after the spill.     Jackson had some victories, too. During her tenure, the administration  finalized a new rule doubling fuel efficiency standards for cars and light  trucks.  The requirements will be phased in over 13 years and eventually require  all new vehicles to average 54.5 mpg, up from 28.6 mpg at the end of last year.  She shepherded another rule that forces power plants to control mercury and  other toxic pollutants for the first time.  Previously, the nation’s coal- and  oil-fired power plants had been allowed to run without addressing their full  environmental and public health costs.  Jackson also helped persuade the administration to table the controversial  Keystone XL pipeline, which would have brought carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas.  House Republicans dedicated much of their time this past election year  trying to rein in the EPA.  They passed a bill seeking to thwart regulation of  the coal industry and quash the stricter fuel efficiency standards.  In the end,  though, the bill made no headway in the Senate.  It served mostly as  election-year fodder that appeared to have little impact on the presidential  election.

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