Washington, DC — Scientists, engineers and inspectors who worked under Lisa Jackson in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection raise troubling questions about her tenure, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is slated to consider the confirmation of Jackson, tabbed by President-elect Obama to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, next week, reportedly on January 14th.
PEER is asking committee members to critically examine actions, decisions and statements that Jackson made at New Jersey DEP which if repeated at EPA would undercut the Obama “change” agenda. Among the issues PEER highlights are her treatment of DEP employees, including –
- Reassignment of whistleblowers, including the agency’s top nuclear safety engineer;
- Issuance of gag orders to silence scientists; and
- The six-fold growth in top salaried employees even as DEP was losing hundreds of line positions to attrition.
“While serving as the top environmental official in a Democratic administration, Lisa Jackson exhibited a pattern of highly questionable calls,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that current and former DEP specialists, as well as community activists, remain available to speak with Senate staff. “We hope the Committee soberly advises before rushing to consent.”
On a policy level, PEER points to instances where Jackson criticized Bush administration EPA proposals on issues where New Jersey was even more culpable, for example –
- New Jersey DEP slammed proposed EPA standards for the chemical perchlorate, widely used by the military, yet DEP had taken no action to set its own “good public health policy” standards, despite completing its scientific basis for action back in 2005. Setting perchlorate standards will be one of the early decisions Jackson will face if confirmed as EPA Administrator;
- Attempts by New Jersey to collect “hundreds of millions of dollars” in “natural resources damages (NRD)” from polluters have been crippled by regulatory incompetence and neglect at DEP under Jackson; and
- State water quality standards and toxic clean-up efforts that were faulted by the Bush EPA as violating minimum federal standards.
“How can Lisa Jackson be expected to exercise oversight of states that are doing what she has until recently been doing herself?” asked Ruch. “Our concern is that national efforts to combat pollution will be limited to the low bar set in New Jersey.”