Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said Thursday she will resign from that position after President Obama’s State of the Union speech next month, bringing to an end a sometimes tumultuous four-year tenure.
“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. Her future plans may include a run for Governor of New Jersey, according to some published reports.
In a statement released Thursday President Obama said Jackson had been “an important part of my team” during his first administration.
“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,” Obama said.
But some energy industry representatives viewed Jackson’s time at EPA less favorably.
“From an energy and consumer perspective, it had to be said that the Jackson EPA presided over some of the most expensive and controversial rules in agency history,” said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. “Agency rules have been used as blunt attempts to marginalize coal and other solid fossil fuels and to make motor fuels more costly at the expense of industrial jobs, energy security and economic recovery. The record of the agency over the same period in overestimating benefits to major rules has not assisted the public in determining whether these rules have been worth it.”
While the EPA run by Jackson has been devastating for the coal industry, it also has been a thorn in the side of oil and natural gas interests. This year the agency was forced to withdraw orders against three producers for alleged groundwater contamination after the EPA had erred in its investigations. The agency also issued a final rule this year aimed at eliminating air pollution from oil and natural gas production facilities with compliance extended until 2015. But the EPA’s estimates of air emissions from oil and gas are widely disputed by industry.
Last week, EPA issued an interim update of 18 studies that have been undertaken in its multi-year review of the potential risks of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale gas wells on public drinking water (see Shale Daily, Dec. 24). During Jackson’s tenure, some lawmakers objected to what they said was the agency’s efforts to gain more control over fracking (see Shale Daily, Oct. 4). It is noteworthy, however, that the study will not be completed until sometime in 2014. In the meantime, the various producing states are charging ahead with their own rules.
In a controversial draft report issued during Jackson’s third year at EPA, the agency concluded that groundwater in Pavillion, WY, contained chemicals that are normally used in natural gas production practices, such as fracking (see Shale Daily, Dec. 9, 2011). The owner of the gas field, Encana Corp., continues to urge EPA to withdraw the report, saying it was “sloppy” and had led to a “misguided response” (see Shale Daily, Dec. 7). The Wyoming governor also objected and insisted on a joint state-EPA study, which is ongoing (see Shale Daily, Oct. 3).
While many of the EPA’s “controversial” actions centered on rules that have been kicking around the agency for a number of years, it was during Jackson’s term that they were pushed through and aggressively enforced. The Obama Administration’s Interior Department also aggressively pursued environmental and safety measures.
So far, there haven’t been any real clues as to how much the political dynamics have changed and how hard the president’s team will push environmental and climate change concerns, including renewables versus fossil fuels, during his second term.
Names that have been floated as possible successors to Jackson include current deputy EPA administrator Robert Perciasepe; current top EPA air pollution official Gina McCarthy; or Clinton White House aide Ian Bowles, who ran the energy and environmental department in Massachusetts.
There have been reports that Obama’s energy cabinet may be revamped as his second term begins, but it is unlikely there will be any major change in energy policy if this occurs.
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