New Orleans native Lisa Jackson leaving EPA after pushing to send BP fines to Gulf states

12 27, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said he has had some "heated arguments" with outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, including sharp questioning at a House hearing in which he challenged her view that reducing carbon emissions would increase jobs by producing green technologies.

But despite those disagreements, Scalise praised Jackson, a New Orleans native, for playing a "significant'' role in advancing the RESTORE Act, which will send 80 of Clean Water Act fines for the BP spill to Louisiana and four other Gulf states.

Jackson announced Thursday that she'd step down as EPA administrator after President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term on January 21.

"I guess you'd say it was a mixed bag," Scalise said. "In the end, I'm hopeful that the president will appoint an EPA administrator more focused on common sense regulations and doing what the law specifies as opposed to an agenda outside the law."

Environmentalists praised Jackson for pushing forward with landmark protections from toxic mercury emissions, higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and new restrictions on sulfur dioxide and soot pollution despite opposition from industry and many Republicans.

"In her four years as EPA administrator, Lisa has been a steadfast advocate for clean air, clean water, a stable climate and public health -- often in the face of very vocal and forceful detractors," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Aaron Viles, deputy director of the Gulf Restoration Network, praised Jackson for performing "her largely thankless role with grace and a consistent commitment to restoring the Gulf."

"While we disagreed over issues such as dispersants, her agency was incredibly engaged and accessible during the BP disaster and its fall out," Viles said. "In the wake of that unprecedented event, Ms. Jackson skillfully chaired the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, bringing multiple federal agencies and five states together to craft a smart and useful restoration strategy. Her legacy on the premier challenge of our time is mixed, with historic advances on auto fuel efficiency, but a failure to aggressively tackle carbon as a pollutant."

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., offered praise, while acknowledging disagreements.

"I admire Lisa Jackson's willingness to serve her country and for the focus and passion that she brings to her work," Landrieu said. "While we have not agreed on every issue to be sure, she has been a strong champion for coastal restoration. Louisiana produced an admirable public servant and she and her friends and family should be proud."

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said President Obama's nominee to succeed Jackson will be pressed to provide specific information about his or her plans before any confirmation vote.

"I wish Lisa Jackson, a fellow native Louisianan, the very best, and thank I her for her service," Vitter said. "Unfortunately, during the last four years overregulation by the EPA has played a significant role in stifling job growth. Moving forward I'll be working with my colleagues in the Senate to make sure the new EPA nominee is thoroughly vetted, puts sound scientific standards above political ideology, and understands that a continuing avalanche of overregulation can crush economic recovery."

Vitter is the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The panel's chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., had a much different take on Jackson's tenure.

"America's families, including some who never knew Lisa during her four years as EPA administrator, will benefit from her commitment to protecting our air and water for many years to come," Boxer said.

"Lisa's ability to develop strong working relationships with Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle -- despite a very partisan atmosphere -- made her a very effective advocate for the environment and public health."

Dan Borne, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, chose to look to the future rather than critique Jackson's tenure as EPA administrator.

"While the process to replace her plays out, we've already had a meeting with the newly appointed administrator for EPA's region six, Ron Curry," Borne said. "He has outstanding administrative, regulatory and business experience, and most of our interaction with EPA over the next few months will be with him and his regional staff."

Jackson gave no details on what she might do next.

"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," Jackson said in a statement.

Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network said that Jackson was put in a position of dealing with two sides with vastly different views on key environmental issues.

"It's a position that captures the ire of both sides of the aisle, with polluters and their defenders charging every move as 'job killing' or advancing an unproven scientific hoax, while the environmental community seeks more aggressive leadership."