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Name: Jackson, Lisa
Current Position: Former Administrator

Lisa Jackson, the first African American to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is faced with the task of restoring morale to an agency whose scientific advisers and staff were often overruled by the Bush administration on issues ranging from air pollution to global warming. Response from environmentalists to Jackson’s selection was somewhat mixed, owing to her recent leadership at the helm of New Jersey’s environmental protection office.

Born February 8, 1962, in Philadelphia, Jackson was put up for adoption. Her adopted parents moved her to New Orleans, where she grew up in Pontchartrain Park in the Lower Ninth Ward. She graduated first in her class at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in 1979 and was class valedictorian. In college, she graduated (summa cum laude) with a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering; her thesis was on cleanup of contaminated water. Jackson earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.
She worked for two years at Clean Sites, a nonprofit funded by the chemical industry. This led to a job as a staff engineer with the EPA, where she stayed for 16 years. Eventually she moved up to deputy director and acting director of the Region Enforcement Division, working to clean up hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program for areas in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Jackson joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2002 as the Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement. In 2005, she took over the Division of Land Use Management, before being named DEP’s top official (commissioner) in 2006 by Gov. John Corzine (D), in charge of 3,400 personnel and a budget of $440 million.
During her tenure at DEP, Jackson was said to have brought a more policy-driven approach to New Jersey’s historically politicized DEP. She worked to pass mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases, reform the state’s cleanup of contaminated sites (including those in Camden and Paterson), establish a scientific advisory board to review agency decisions, and end DEP’s controversial bear hunt. She also unveiled a plan to reduce carbon emissions 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
In 2007, Jackson led New Jersey’s participation in a lawsuit filed by multiple states in response to the Bush administration’s ruling that prevented states from enacting tougher fuel efficiency standards. Jackson called the EPA decision “a horrendous change of course,” adding, “When it comes to the auto industry, the EPA apparently is the Emissions Permissions Agency.”
Jackson’s last job in New Jersey was as Corzine’s chief of staff (becoming the first woman and first African American to hold the post), but it began only on December 1, 2008, two weeks before Obama formally nominated her to head the EPA.
As part of her duties in New Jersey, Jackson served as vice president of the executive board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program organized by northeast states to develop a regional cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy producers. Jackson also has been involved with the Governor’s Intergovernmental Relations Commission, the executive committee of the Natural Resources Leadership Council of the States, the New Jersey Intergovernmental Protection Commission, and the Ozone Transport Commission (chair).
Upon the announcement that Jackson would be Obama’s choice for the EPA, some environmentalists came out in opposition to her selection, including the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Opponents said Jackson caved in to pressure from big business by supporting a plan that would privatize cleanup of hazardous waste sites, and that under her watch, DEP delayed releasing a critical report linking chromium waste sites in rapidly developing areas of Hudson County to lung cancer.
Other environmental groups endorsed her as EPA’s new boss, including the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. They insisted that many of the poor moves by DEP were attributable to decisions by Corzine, who repeatedly cut funding for the agency.
Jackson supported Senator Hillary Clinton over Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries. Besides making a $1,000 donation to Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007, she was an at-large delegate pledged to Clinton; later in 2008 she donated $200 to the Obama campaign. Following the November election, Obama selected Jackson to serve on his transition panel for energy and the environment.
Jackson is married and has two sons.
EPA Official Might Have Conflict Over C8 (by Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette)
The New Team: Lisa Jackson (New York Times)
Ten Questions the Senate Should Ask Lisa Jackson (Public Employees for Envoronmental Responsibility) (PDF)
Lisa Jackson: On an Environmental Mission (by Robin Nash, (PDF)
Why Lisa Jackson Should Not Run EPA (Public Employees for Envoronmental Responsibility)
Obama's EPA Choice Pending (by Bill Wolfe, NJ Voices)
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