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EPA Head Resigns Amid Cheers and Jeers

Thursday, January 3, 2013

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The Obama administration's chief environmental watchdog, Lisa Jackson, will step down this month after the President's State of the Union speech, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced.

Jackson's departure as EPA Administrator has quickly become as controversial as her tenure, with some reports saying that she is leaving in a dispute with President Obama on the Keystone XL pipeline—a report that the EPA has denied.

Jackson has led the EPA through four years of tough issues, including a long-delayed rule on Coal Combustion Residuals, global warming, Keystone XL, coal-fired plant emissions, and other hot topics that constantly wedged her between praise and criticism. The agency and Jackson have both been the object of frequent attacks by conservatives and business groups.

President Obama - Cushing, OK
White House Photo

Some reports said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was resigning in protest over  President Obama's growing support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama spoke about the project in March in Cushing, OK.

In a statement Dec. 27 announcing her resignation, Jackson thanked Obama for "the honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four years."

"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," said Jackson.

No successor has been named, but the New York Times has reported that EPA deputy administrator Robert Perciasepe is expected to take over temporarily.

Accomplishments and Controversy

Jackson had pledged to focus on seven priorities for EPA's future:

  • Action on climate change;
  • Improving air quality;
  • Cleaning up communities;
  • Protecting America's waters;
  • Assuring the safety of chemicals;
  • Expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and
  • Building stronger state and tribal partnerships.

She outlined principles to modernize the nation's 30-year-old chemical management laws, called for unprecedented innovation in drinking water protection efforts, and announced tough standards for clean air, according to the EPA.

During Jackson's tenure, the agency created new federal standards on toxic pollutants and mercury emissions from coal power plants, marking the first time that U.S. coal- and oil-fired power plants were required to limit their emissions of mercury and hazardous pollutants.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, GOP candidate Mitt Romney called for Jackson's firing, accusing her and two others of pursuing policies that drive up gas prices, reported.

Investigations and Rumors

Recently, Jackson has come under fire for allegedly using at least one secondary email address under an alias. Melissa Heist, the EPA's Assistant Inspector General for Audit, announced Dec. 13 that her office would launch an investigation in response to a congressional request to "determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business." 

Meanwhile,The New York Post reported that Jackson was resigning because of Obama's support for the  Keystone KL oil pipeline, which EPA has opposed.

The EPA is not responsible for the international project, but Jackson is the president's top adviser on ecological policy and had expressed concerns over the proposed $7 billion pipeline that would carry Canadian oil sands through the U.S. to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

However, spokeswoman Victoria Rivas-Vazquez noted Jackson's announced reasons for stepping down and added, "The idea that her decision was based on anything else is entirely false."


Obama called Jackson "an important part of my team" and thanked her for her service and "tireless efforts to benefit the American people."

Obama Responds

On Dec. 27, Obama released a statement praising Jackson's "unwavering commitment to the health of our families and our children."

"Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, incuding implementing the first national standard for hamful 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.

"Lisa has been an important part of my team, and I want to thank her for her service in my Administration and her tireless efforts to benefit the American people."

Jackson started at the EPA as a staff-level scientist in 1987 and spent the majority of her career in EPA's Region 2 office in New York. In 2002, she joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and was appointed commissioner of the agency in 2006.

She is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University and earned a master's degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University. In 2012, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Tulane University. She also has an honorary law degree from Pace Law School.


Tagged categories: Environmental Control; Environmental Protection; EPA; Government; Personnel changes; Program/Project Management

Comment from Eric Rosenthal, (1/3/2013, 4:04 AM)

The rampant corruption will never stop with this administration

Comment from James Johnson, (1/4/2013, 2:04 PM)

I completely agree the corruption is rampant, and the EPA is probably the worst with over reach in attempting to regulate beyond the law, just one example being their war on energy.

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