Washington, DC —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 clean-ups.
“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 energy;
- 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 effectiveness.
“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.”