The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
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Why Lisa Jackson Should Not Run EPA

Disastrous Record in New Jersey Bodes Ill for Reforming EPA


The track record compiled by Lisa P. Jackson as Commissioner of the
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection should disqualify her
from serving as the next head of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In many instances, Jackson embraced policies at DEP echoing the very
practices at the Bush EPA which Senator Barack Obama condemned during
the presidential campaign.

DEP employees describe Ms. Jackson as employing a highly politicized
approach to decision-making that resulted in suppression of scientific
information, issuance of gag orders and threats against professional
staff members who dared to voice concerns. These reports raise
troubling questions about her fitness to run an agency of much greater
size and complexity. Among concerns PEER points to are -

  • Cases in which public health was endangered due to DEP
    malfeasance, including one case involving a day-care center in a former
    thermometer factory in which DEP failed to warn parents or workers for
    months about mercury contamination;
  • Rising levels of water
    pollution, contamination of drinking water supplies and poisoning of
    wildlife with no cogent state response; and
  • The state
    hazardous waste clean-up program under Ms. Jackson was so mismanaged
    that the Bush EPA had to step in and assume control of several
    Superfund sites.

"While Ms. Jackson has a compelling biography, little of what
occurred during her 31-month tenure commends her for promotion," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Under her watch, New Jersey's
environment only got dirtier, incredible as that may seem."

In one of her first acts, Jackson appointed the lobbyist for the New
Jersey Builders Association as her Assistant Commissioner to oversee
critical water quality and land use permits. Jackson later convened an
industry-dominated task force to rewrite DEP policies and relaxed
pollution enforcement through policies more business-friendly than
those under Gov. Christie Whitman. Relying on closed-door deal-making
with regulated industry executives and lobbyists, Ms. Jackson produced
decisions, such as -

  • Invoking "executive privilege" to block a request filed by
    PEER under the state Open Public Records Act for a copy of her schedule
    and sign-in logs;
  • Pushing to privatize pollution control through outsourcing of toxic clean-ups to industry;
  • Abolishing
    the DEP Division of Science & Research after it produced damning
    reports on continuing contamination following state-supervised

"In our experience, Lisa Jackson is cut out of the same professional
cloth as the current administrator, Stephen Johnson - a pliant
technocrat who will follow orders," Ruch added. "If past is prologue,
one cannot reasonably expect meaningful change if she is appointed to
lead EPA."

The one area where Ms. Jackson claims national leadership is the
state climate change program but PEER contends that examination of her
record yields paltry results -

  • DEP failed to meet its first major statutory milestone in
    implementing the emission reduction goals of the highly touted Global
    Warming Response Act. A June 30th legal deadline for producing a plan
    identifying the legislative and regulatory "measures necessary to
    reduce greenhouse gas emissions" still has not been met. At the same
    time, Ms. Jackson supported and Gov. Jon Corzine signed "The Permit
    Extension Act" which exempts thousands of projects from any new energy
    conservation, efficiency or requirements for solar heating or renewable
  • New Jersey missed the historic first auction of
    greenhouse gas pollution allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas
    Initiative, or RGGI, this September because DEP was unable to adopt
    regulations to implement the pollution trading program that underpinned
    the auction; and
  • Jackson proposed a cap-and-trade program to
    reduce carbon dioxide emissions that will do little to combat global
    warming because it sets emissions caps above current levels and
    contains numerous complex offsets and loopholes that undercut its

"Given what actually transpired in New Jersey, putting Ms. Jackson
in a key position for guiding a national global warming effort would be
imprudent," Ruch concluded. "The Obama transition should take a little
more time to find the right choice for this critical job."


Read the PEER letter to President-elect Obama opposing Jackson

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.