Senate opens hearing on Lisa Jackson, Obama EPA pick

| 1/15/2009

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works opened confirmation hearings Wednesday for Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama’s selection for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“President-elect Obama has affirmed two core values that he expects EPA to uphold during his administration: scientific integrity and the rule of law,” Jackson told the committee. “He has also made it clear we will operate with unparalleled transparency and openness. I pledge to uphold those values.”

The next EPA administrator will likely have a powerful effect on the future of trucking, including overseeing regulations for diesel engine emissions and investigating controversial topics such as carbon cap and trade systems.

Jackson ran the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection before working as Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff.

Jackson who worked for the EPA for 15 years of her 21-year career, said, “Science must be at the backbone of what EPA does.”

“If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide,” Jackson said. “I understand that the laws leave room for policymakers to make policy judgments. But if I am confirmed, political appointees will not compromise the integrity of EPA’s technical experts to advance particular regulatory outcomes.”

Several times during Wednesday’s hearing, both senators and appointee candidates Jackson and Nancy Sutley opaquely referenced criticisms of EPA actions during the Bush administration. Sutley is Obama’s pick to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who chairs the environment committee, said she had looked forward to the placement of a new EPA administrator for a long time, saying she believed the EPA needed to renew its focus after what Boxer characterized as the agency’s hurting the American people since 2001.

“EPA must rely on scientific experts, not special interests,” Boxer said. “EPA must listen to its professional staff and independent experts, not industry lobbyists.”

Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO, said his constituents “can’t support” some actions proposed by more environmentally-aggressive states from both coasts.

“I urge you to take your new responsibilities at heart,” Bond said. “What worked in New Jersey may not be acceptable in Carthage (MO). We want to find middle ground.”

Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, welcomed Jackson, but said he’s skeptical about some comments made by the incoming presidential administration.

“Of particular concern to me are the incoming administration’s aggressive statements about plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act,” Inhofe said. “As you know, I have serious concerns about the timing and troubling implications that further regulation could have on our already fragile economy; those concerns are shared by many across the country.”

Though the senators’ questions for Jackson lasted several hours, it appeared she had much support from much of the committee.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE, went so far as to thank Jackson’s parents for raising her in a way to prepare her for service to America.

“I can think of few people more qualified and ready to lead the EPA during these challenging times than Lisa Jackson,” Carper said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer