U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama has named Lisa P. Jackson, a career-long environmental regulator, as his nominee for the position of administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Jackson is the former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). She recently left NJDEP to become New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s chief of staff. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first African American and third female administrator of EPA.
Jackson, 46, is a chemical engineer by training. A native of New Orleans, she graduated from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering summa cum laude and has a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University. According to news reports, she was visiting family in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and helped family members evacuate.
Jackson worked for 16 years at EPA, first at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and then in EPA Region II in New York. During her tenure at EPA Region II, Jackson was acting director of enforcement and compliance assistance, among other things, for the states of New York and New Jersey and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. She left EPA to join NJDEP in 2002.
The state of New Jersey, through NJDEP, has frequently been a leader in the area of environmental regulation, and has some of the most comprehensive industrial cleanup laws in the United States. Because of the agency’s limited funding and an enormous case load in recent years, it has sometimes adopted less traditional mechanisms for carrying out its programs, including the use of outside lawyers to identify and facilitate settlement of the agency’s claims for natural resource damages. While at NJDEP, Jackson was involved in a broad range of environmental programs, including land use regulation, water supply, geological survey, water monitoring and standards, and watershed management, before becoming commissioner in 2006. As the agency’s assistant commissioner of compliance and enforcement, she reportedly implemented widespread “compliance sweeps” with approximately 1,000 inspections conducted in Camden and Paterson, two communities where environmental enforcement had been lax.
During her tenure as commissioner, Jackson championed Governor Corzine’s adoption of the state’s plan to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, a position that is consistent with President-Elect Obama’s. She also served on the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that is implementing a cap-and-trade program among the northeast states.
Jackson’s views are representative of a number of cabinet members and high-level regulators selected by Obama who advocate increased focus on global warming and efforts to address climate change. Such efforts are likely to include regulation of carbon dioxide, perhaps through a cap-and-trade program.
Another important announcement affecting environmental matters is President-Elect Obama’s selection of Carol Browner, former EPA administrator for the Clinton administration, to serve in a newly created position reporting directly to him that will coordinate energy, climate and environmental issues across the administration. President-Elect Obama’s third selection of significance in the environmental arena is energy secretary nominee Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Chu has also been vocal about regulating carbon emissions and “green” approaches to energy efficiency.
While Jackson’s specific positions on a number of environmental issues are not widely known, it is expected that she will reinvigorate EPA’s role and visibility, particularly with respect to climate change and perhaps in the enforcement arena as well. Greater focus on international cooperation is also expected, and it is likely that EPA will accelerate its review and standard setting with respect to a variety of pollutants and toxic substances. Among the most time sensitive issues that Jackson will face is the fate of several regulatory programs instituted under the federal Clean Air Act that were the subject of adverse judicial decisions, including the Clean Air Interstate Rule, new source review and mercury regulations.