Dec 12, 2008

(AP Photo / Mike Derer / File)

Lisa Jackson, a chemical engineering graduate of Princeton University, is being eyed by President-elect Obama to become the first African American to head the Environmental Protection Agency. I don't know what I am more excited about---the fact that she is black or the fact that she is a fellow chemical engineer.

Here is what is being reported on Ms. Jackson:

Supporters say Jackson, 46, has the experience to steer the agency down a new path. She spent 16 years at the EPA in Washington and in New York before being hired at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2002, an agency that has been riddled by budget cuts and personnel shortages. Jackson was named the head of the department in 2006 by Gov. Jon Corzine, overseeing environmental regulation in a state plagued by pollution problems and home to the most hazardous waste sites in the country. She left earlier this month to take a job as Corzine's chief of staff.

In her short tenure, Jackson has worked to pass mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases, to reform the state's cleanup of contaminated sites and to establish a scientific advisory board to review agency decisions.

But, Jackson also has her detractors. A small but vocal contingent of environmental advocacy groups came out against Jackson last week, asking President-elect Barack Obama to drop her as a candidate.

In a letter to the transition team, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group that represents environmentally-minded state and federal employees, said it was "distressed" that Jackson was under consideration.

The group said that while Jackson had "a compelling biography" — she grew up in New Orleans' gritty Lower Ninth Ward — her record at the Department of Environmental Protection did not warrant a promotion. As evidence, they cited an EPA inspector general report that found that New Jersey failed to use its authority to expedite cleanups at seven hazardous waste sites. The state also has been criticized by federal wildlife officials for failing to adopt standards for pesticides and other toxic chemicals that protect wildlife and for delays in meeting its greenhouse gas emissions targets.

DEP officials, in response to those allegations, said Jackson inherited many of the problems, and that in the case of global warming the state was getting back on track. (Source)



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