Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quick thoughts as Lisa Jackson prepares to step down from EPA

The news has broken today that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be stepping down.

This has long been expected, so, in that sense, it isn’t a shock.

Health and environmental advocates will definitely miss her.  She has been a real champion for clean air.  She is going to be a tough act to follow.

Jackson had some very significant wins during her tenure.  High among them were strong standards to clean up mercury and other toxic emissions from coal power plants, new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles and new standards to limit fine particle soot in the air.  Very significantly, she also reversed the findings of the Bush administration and declared that climate change poses a real threat to health and the environment.  (This so-called endangerment finding was a necessary first step before the EPA could limit vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, power plant emissions, etc.) She also reversed the Bush policy and permitted California to move ahead with its own ghg vehicle standards, which then became the model for national standards.

Jackson also had some real setbacks, including the 2011 decision by the White House to block EPA from updating national clean air standards for smog, or ozone.  It was an ugly episode as political science trumped real science.

And the courts have, at least temporarily, stalled her efforts to limit power plant pollution that blows across state lines.

The cross-state pollution issue, the still-controversial ozone question, and the need for cleaner, low-sulfur gas will be among the priorities facing her successor.

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