Environmental Protection Agency early next year.
In a brief statement Thursday, 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." President Obama praised her:
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.It was at times a rough go for Jackson, a chemical engineer and the first African American to head the EPA, but the former head of the New Jersey EPA kept her cool under withering attacks from the Right and disappointed head-shaking from many environmental advocates, particularly over matters related to climate change. She was summoned frequently for hearings at which she was blasted by regulation-hating members of Congress. Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Jackson in 2011 that she would need her own parking spot on Capitol Hill because he would be grilling her so often.
But it wasn't just outsiders who caused problems. The White House itself intervened directly last year to stop EPA from tightening restrictions on ozone and smog standards, a move that environmental advocates said was a kowtow to industry.
Besides the toxics rule and negotiating a doubling of the efficiency of cars and trucks, victories during Jackson's tenure included boosting morale at the agency and a rule controlling soot. She helped persuade the administration to reject, at least temporarily, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a 36-inch Alberta-to-Texas conduit for fossil fuel from the Canadian tar sands. Perhaps most importantly, she won the legal fight giving the EPA authority to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, the so-called endangerment finding. That gave the agency the go-ahead to set vehicle emissions standards, the first time pollution related to global warming has come under federal regulation.
But on other matters related to climate change, Jackson ran into repeated roadblocks. The cap-and-trade bill requiring corporations to buy greenhouse-gas emissions permits, which over time would reduce the amount of carbon spewed into the already overburdened atmosphere, was passed by the House of Representatives in 2009 but couldn't make it out of the Senate. What was early on announced by the administration as a vigorous push to deal with climate change soon fell prey to concerns over the economy, the fight on health care reform and other matters, such as the surge in the war in Afghanistan. EPA's role in dealing with climate change moved to a nibbling around the edges even as the White House encouraged more drilling for oil on-shore and off-shore as well as increases in coal exports.
In a brief interview [with John M. Broder at The New York Times] on Wednesday evening, Ms. Jackson said that she hoped to decompress after four intense years running the E.P.A., which has 17,000 employees and an $8 billion annual budget. She said she would probably do some consulting and public speaking but has not begun looking for a new job. She is thought to be a candidate for the presidency of Princeton.A Grist interview with Jackson can be read here. Here she is on the "Colbert Report."
Asked what she considered most important in her tenure, Ms. Jackson mentioned the endangerment finding, because it was the first time that the federal government began to address climate change. She also said that, although it received little notice during her tenure, she was proud of her role in expanding the environmental agenda to include voices that have been little heard, including low-income communities, native Alaskans and American Indian tribes.
“Before me,” she said, “some people said that African-Americans don’t care about the environment. I don’t think that will ever be the case again.”
Potential replacements include Brad Campbell, a Clinton-era environmental official who took over the New Jersey EPA after Jackson moved to Washington, and Robert Perciasepe, the deputy EPA administrator.