Tag Archive: Lisa Jackson

Dismantling the EPA

Chris Christie has been a disaster for New Jersey’s environment. From his pull out from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to his stacking the Pinelands and Highlands Commissions with his proles, Christie has been a friend of polluters, not people. Here he is in Iowa, bragging about his dismal record.

Can Lisa Jackson clean up Apple?

Five months ago, when Lisa Jackson left the EPA, which she was running under President Barack Obama, there was a brief flurry of expectation that it meant a run for NJ governor against Christie, or that she’d become the new president of Princeton University, where she earned her MS in chemical engineering in 1986. But she took neither path.

Jackson, who served both as DEP commissioner and chief of staff for Gov. Corzine before her federal role, is going to work for Apple. Jackson will oversee Apple’s greentech and energy efficiency projects, including solar and biofuels.  She’ll report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Any solid forward movement Apple makes to clean up its compliance problems with Chinese regulations, discharge of toxic materials into the communities around the factories where Apple products are manufactured, and the impact of poor working conditions on the Chinese nationals who actually do some of the work that make Apple execs and investors so wealthy is good. I hope Jackson plays a key role there.

Especially considering it took Chinese environmental groups in the country where Apple products are built to light a fire under the company for stuff like this.

So she wrote, on her Mac Book built in China. Sigh.  

Rutgers’ CAWP tracks women in the Obama Administration

The groundbreaking Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics (a mouthful of a name) is tracking the women in President Obama’s cabinet and other high-level positions in his administration.

You can read CAWP’s full list (pictures & bios), but here are the ones I pulled out with New Jersey connections:  

Hillary Clinton, who may be the toughest thing standing in Chris Christie’s way in 2016 according to a national poll released today, the highest ranking woman in President Obama’s administration, the outgoing Secretary of State.

Valerie Jarrett, the President’s Senior Advisor and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, who was at Rutgers two years ago to give the Senator Wynona Lipman lecture on women’s political leadership for the RU Ready Young Leaders Conference.

Elena Kagan and the wildly popular Sonia Sotomayor  – both Supreme Court Associate Justices and both Princeton-educated.

Lisa Jackson, chemical engineer by profession (her Master’s degree from Princeton), and Obama’s former EPA Chief, and former NJ EPA Commissioner and former Chief of Staff to Gov. Jon Corzine – the first woman and the first African-American to hold that post in New Jersey. Jackson’s decision to step down in December briefly fueled chatter she was considering getting into the race for NJ Governor.

Sara Manzano-Diaz, former Director of the Women’s Bureau, Department of Labor –  the only part of the Federal government specifically tasked with improving the lives of working women. Law Degree from Rutgers University School of Law.

And hey – CAWP’s bi-partisan campaign training for women Ready to Run starts at Rutgers two weeks from tomorrow. Not too late to get trained and find your way onto some future list like this one, above.

 

What’s next for EPA Chief Lisa Jackson?

Promoted by Interested Observer: Will she throw her hat in the ring to challenge Christie? Would you support her if she did?

NYT reports she is in fact stepping down as head of the EPA.

E.P.A. Chief to Step Down, With Climate Still Low Priority

Will she come back to NJ? Run for Governor? U.S. Senate?  Congressman Pascrell’s seat if he runs for Governor?

I know a lot of the Big E environmental groups are not particularly enamored of Lisa Jackson’s tenure as either EPA Chief or NJDEP Commissioner.

But I saw her speak in Louisiana when I was running state communications there for Repower America.

I walked away extremely impressed, she spoke from the heart about her experiences with environmental waste, toxics, cancer and the impact of these threats on communities and families.

And as someone who grew up in the heart of Superfund country near the Arthur Kill, I can tell who really bleeds green and who doesn’t very very quickly.

Christie Whitman bleeds green for instance — but that’s a story for another day.

Lisa Jackson gets it, she knows what the environmental realities are and she knows what the political realities are. I’ve never bought the naysaying about her commitment to environmental protection.

Jackson grew up in Louisiana not far from cancer alley and spent her career with the EPA in Region 2 overseeing Superfund and toxic cleanup programs. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from Princeton and Tulane.

You can’t have those experiences and not be committed to environmental protection and reform.

If politics is not in the cards for Jackson, I hope one of the Big E environmental groups pick her as their next President, Chair or ED.  

And the NJ Democratic Candidate For Governor Is….

Update Sunday, 2:45 PM: It’s not too late to vote your preference for the 2013 Democratic gubernatorial candidate and to join the lively discussion.

Candidates are already starting to position themselves.

Cast your vote in the poll beneath the fold and see the results so far.

Whom do you prefer? And, if you wish, tell us why.

Obama WH Over-Rules EPA Scientists On Coal Ash Regulations

[for version with links, go to:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

                  Obama’s Regulatory Czar Mirrors Christie’s

Earlier this week, we wrote about EPA’s proposed weak approach to regulating toxic coal ash (see: EPA Caves on Coal Ash).

In that post, we suggested that the Obama White House may have intervened to reverse the recommendations of EPA scientist’s, a widespread abuse under the Bush Administration that was condemned by scientists and national environmental groups.

 

[reporters] asked about the role of Obama adviser Cass Sunstein, head of the Office and Management Budget Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs . EPA submitted a draft rule in October 2009 for Sunstein’s review. Some have said that he was pressuring EPA to weaken and delay the rule via OIRA’s regulatory review and cost benefit analysis. EPA refused to answer questions about OIRA’s role and how the October version differed from  today’s proposal (particularly about whether the October draft included an EPA preference). That silence basically confirms the suspicion that the EPA science was politically over-ruled by Obama’s OMB acting though OIRA based on economic considerations.

Before Jackson joined the Obama administration, we criticized her as lacking independence as Commissioner of the NJ DEP, where she showed a pattern of politicizing environmental decisions and an inability to resist political pressure (see: WHY LISA JACKSON SHOULD NOT RUN EPA):

 

 “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, … If past is prologue, one cannot reasonably expect meaningful change if she is appointed to lead EPA.”

Our criticism and suspicions have been confirmed by a national news outlet, who just reported that the White House did intervene and over-rule EPA scientists. According to E&E News:

   COAL: EPA backed off ‘hazardous’ label for ash after White House review (05/07/2010)

   Patrick Reis, E&E reporter

 

U.S. EPA’s proposed regulation of coal ash as a hazardous waste was changed at the White House to give equal standing to an alternative favored by the coal industry and coal-burning electric utilities.

   The Obama administration is now considering two competing rules for regulating the ash that contains toxins that include arsenic, lead and mercury. The first would set binding federal disposal requirements for the ash, and the second would label the ash nonhazardous and leave enforcement to the states (E&ENews PM, May 4).

   EPA released the two-headed proposal Tuesday for public comments.

   But there was just one rule proposal that EPA sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget last October and that would have labeled coal ash a hazardous waste, documents released yesterday show. EPA said then that compliance with the hazardous-waste regulations would be more expensive but that costs would be outweighed by health and environmental benefits.

   EPA wrote then that “maintaining a [nonhazardous] approach would not be protective of human and the environment.”

   What changed in the six months that the proposal was in OMB’s hands? Says EPA: Its administrator, Lisa Jackson, changed her mind about the hazardous-waste designation.

   “After extensive discussions, the Administrator decided that both the [hazardous and nonhazardous] options merited consideration for addressing the formidable challenge of safely managing coal ash disposal,” EPA said in a statement.

   In its deliberations on the rule, OMB had more than 40 meetings with stakeholders, 30 with industry groups and at least 12 with environmental and public health groups, according to office’s records. OMB declined to comment on the matter, referring questions to EPA.

   Proponents of the hazardous designation say Jackson was bullied away from the agency’s original proposal by industry lobbyists and OMB economists.

   “OMB is substituting its judgment for the judgment of the EPA administrator, and that’s not the way this is supposed to work,” said Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform and a professor at the University of Maryland Law School. “Lisa Jackson is accountable for environmental protection and that she could be overruled by a bunch of economists in the basement of the executive office tells us that this process is frighteningly dysfunctional.”

   Environmentalists have been pressing EPA for the hazardous designation for years, but the campaign gained momentum 16 months ago when a wet storage pond at a Kingston, Tenn., power plant failed, spilling about 1 billion gallons of sludge into surrounding lands and rivers. Even when the ponds do not fail, they can leach toxic concentrations of heavy metals into water supplies, said Lisa Evans, an attorney with the nonprofit Earthjustice.

   Under the hazardous option EPA proposed Tuesday, such ponds would be phased out over five years. The nonhazardous alternative would allow new wet storage ponds to be built but require new safety measures and pollution monitoring devices.

   Utilities and companies that sell coal ash for recycling as a building material argue that a hazardous designation overstates the health risks from coal ash and would unnecessarily impose new storage costs. They also say it would stigmatize building materials that use recycled coal ash and send more of the waste to landfills (Greenwire, Jan. 13).

   The changes to EPA’s proposal during the OMB review suggest the regulatory-review process worked properly, said Jim Roewer, executive director of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group.

   Both environmental groups and affected business had an opportunity to share their views, Roewer said. The number of meetings with industry groups should not be seen as “undue influence” but rather the result of the high number of companies affected by coal ash rules, he said.

   The review process “does open the opportunity for interested stakeholders to present their views so that EPA or whatever federal agency is developing a rule can get as much information as possible,” Roewer said. “To say this is a bad thing for public policy seems like a strange argument.”

We have been writing about the dangers of cost benefit analysis as an industry backed tool to weaken regulatory protections and undermine science based air, water, and public health and safety standards.  We also have tried to explain how the new Christie Regulatory Czar and closed door “stakeholder” meetings are an abuse of Executive Power.

The Obama WH intervention to kill strong coal ash regulation via cost benefit analysis and closed door industry meetings is exactly the process the Christie Administration has created in Executive Order #2 and the new Regulatory Czar, Kim Guadagno.

That process already killed a DEP proposed drinking water standard and rollbacks of more than a dozen major DEP rules are underway. – including the Highlands Septic Density standards.

We can expect a lot more rollbacks, unless the public is made aware of what is going on and begins to oppose the rollbacks, before they become fate accompli.

Jackson’s Back in Jersey – for a Pony in Pompton Lakes

[for version with links to supporting documents, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Obama US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited NJ yesterday for whirlwind press stops in Newark, Ringwood, and Pompton Lakes (the Ringwood visit was not mentioned in the itinerary of the official EPA press advisory). Along with the press conferences and photo ops, Jackson took the opportunity to meet with small groups of residents to listen to their concerns. The Pompton Lakes meeting was private and not open to press.

The NJ press corps played right along and gave Jackson exactly what she was seeking – headlines, photo’s, and generally non-critical stories that echoed her message (see Bergen Record Pompton Lakes; and Bergen Record Ringwood and Star Ledger coverage).

I want to focus briefly on the policy and then on the politics of this visit with respect to the Pompton Lakes site.

Jackson’s message was consistent with what she did for over 3 years as NJ DEP Commissioner and thus far as head of US EPA: create an appearance that she and EPA are acting aggressively, responding to the concerns of the community, and holding polluters accountable (all while delivering little to nothing of substance, and sometimes doing exactly the opposite – see: WHY LISA JACKSON SHOULD NOT RUN EPA – Disastrous Record in New Jersey Bodes Ill for Reforming EPA).

Bob Spiegel of Edison Wetlands Association quote got it exactly right in the Bergen Record story:

 

“The problem is that the EPA and DEP keep asking DuPont to do things about the cleanup. What they need to do is start telling DuPont to do things about the cleanup,…  At what point do the agencies start using their authority to direct DuPont to act?”

EPA has tremendous legal power and financial and technical resources under Superfund, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Clean Water Act. The fact of the matter is that Jackson’s visit did nothing to enforce this legal power or deploy EPA resources.

For example, Jackson refused to commit to listing the site on the Superfund “National Priorities List” (NPL). But the Pompton Lakes site does not have to be listed on the NPL before EPA can take immediate action, allocate resources, or pursue enforcement actions against Dupont.

Similarly, EPA has long been involved at the Dupont site under RCRA’s “Corrective Action” program. Yet despite this authority, EPA has issued no enforcement orders that compel Dupont to do anything, or imposed any RCRA fines and penalties to punish Dupont for what they have done to Pompton Lakes.

And as a result of huge off site water quality impairment and sediment pollution, EPA could hammer Dupont with Clean Water Act enforcement actions (i.e. fines, penalties, cleanup Orders), including issuing Natural Resource Damage restoration and compensation Orders.

But Jackson’s only written materials were press releases, not EPA enforcement Orders or litigation.

In terms of responsiveness to the community, there was muted and implied criticism in the Bergen Record story:

 

Pompton Lakes residents and officials said they did not recall Jackson coming to the borough to discuss the DuPont contamination when she had been DEP commissioner, but appreciated her presence there Friday.

Exactly.

That unstated criticism was included in the Bergen Record coverage of the Ringwood visit which noted that the meeting with residents there did not focus on the Ford site cleanup issues but “focused more on personal, family issues”. So this quote is about as close to criticism as it gets for a member of “the family” as fellow Ramapough Mountain Indians referred to Jackson (see this photo & story for the context here – Jackson politically used Ringwood residents during her confirmation hearing):

 

“I’m glad she’s still thinking about us,” said Jack Walker, another resident. “For a while there, we haven’t heard anything and I thought maybe we were forgotten.”

In terms of the larger political context, Jackson’s visit can be interpreted as motivated by at several different objectives.

First, Jackson could be engaging in the typical and relatively harmless political dog and pony show that has gone on for years at NJ’s Superfund sites.

But that kind of cynical political stunt is NOT harmless and is especially inappropriate right now because the residents of Pompton Lakes are facing a cancer cluster and demanding that EPA take over the cleanup due to failures by DEP and deep distrust of Dupont, who have not been honest with them. (see this for Dupont’s power at EPA)

Residents are expecting independent and  aggressive EPA intervention, not typical political games. And that’s exactly why Jackson’s personal involvement is totally inappropriate because for 7+ years she did nothing as a DEP Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner to force Dupont to cleanup the site. During Jackson’s tenure at DEP, vapor intrusion issues were being mismanaged by NJ DEP. These failures led directly to Pompton Lakes exposures.

Jackson can not be the independent objective broker the community seeks at EPA because she has a direct conflict of interest, having been involved as a decision-maker at NJ DEP. That’s why Jackson was recused from any involvement in NJ issues as EPA Administrator. Her involvement now undermines EPA independence and creates the appearance of politicization.

The Bergen Record previously reported on the Lisa Jackson recusal in a 9/1/09 story (below)- I didn’t see any time limit in that story:

 

Jackson said she agreed when she took over the EPA to recuse herself from involvement with any actions she took as New Jersey’s commissioner. A spokesman said the recusal is designed to prevent Jackson from influencing EPA employees to act one way or another regarding New Jersey.”  (see: EPA chief’s spin on DEP audit)

While one might think that NJ would benefit by having a former NJ DEP Commissioner head up EPA, actually, the opposite is the case. There were subtle yet profound benefits for NJ associated of Jackson’s recusal, which tended to empower EPA Regional Administrator Judy Enck. Enck comes out of the NY environmental advocacy community and has roots in Governor Eliot Spitzer’s progressive approach to public policy, particularity with respect to the important role of regulation and vigorous enforcement. Jackson simply does not share that progressive philosophy or environmental advocacy experience and commitment. As I wrote on December 11, 2009:

 

Enck’s boss, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was previously NJDEP Commissioner and Chief of Staff to Governor John Corzine. Jackson is recused and can not participate in EPA decisions in NJ. This provides Enck more autonomy and control in NJ within the EPA chain of command, yet it also requires that she avoid any appearance of favoritism in NJ. (See: New Obama EPA Regional Administrator Plants a Flag in NJ)

Or, Jackson could be sending a strategic political shot across the bow of the Christie Administration on behalf of the Obama EPA. (see: Christie’s Environmental Rollback Agenda Receiving National Attention)

Christie said during the campaign that he looked forward to battles with the Obama EPA – Christie said (watch it on YouTube)

 

 “I’ve got a feeling that you will see, come January 2010, a lot of battles between the Christie administration DEP and the Obama administration EPA.”

His actions thus far tread heavily on compliance with EPA delegated or funded programs. (See: Christie Regulatory Czar Given Power and Tools to Rollback Environmental and Public Health Protections

But if this were Jackson’s motivation, again she played a very weak hand by delivering nothing of substance and failing to focus on or hold Christie accountable for  actions he already has taken (see: CHRISTIE OUTLINES RADICAL ECO-ROLLBACK IN NEW JERSEY – Privatization Specialist Tapped to Head Department of Environmental Protection)

Either way, looks like more of the same old same old from Lisa Jackson:  politics and symbolism over policy and substance.

Lisa Jackson on Real Time with Bill Maher

Former head of the DEP and current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday. Here is much of the segment:

They talked about states that have brought the federal government along to higher standards, but said that we should be past the states leading the way on clean energy because in a year or two, China will literally clean our clock. They talked about hybrid technology, but that how the electricity is generated is very important. Maher brings up how raising beef causes more global warming than cars, to which Jackson tried to gloss over the answer, but Maher wasn’t having any of it. Then they started talking about water and people getting sick from it with everything added in the water supply. Jackson said we should be concerned that we don’t know enough about clean water and water is a concern for us. Then they moved to toxic chemicals management, to which Jackson said they’re trying to move the bar back to think about what will happen at the end

EPA audit scolds DEP for “significant shortcomings”

The DEP is under fire from the results of a routine audit by the EPA.

A federal audit of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection identified what it called “significant shortcomings” in how the DEP operates, especially in the division that handles contaminated site cleanups.

The DEP’s site remediation program doesn’t provide proper oversight of contaminated site cleanups because program officers don’t follow up with field audits or internal assessments, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency report, released Thursday.

The EPA faulted the DEP officials for failing to verify what the private contractors of polluters told them about site cleanups. The DEP officials even told the EPA during interviews that the contractors were “certified professionals and taken at their word,” the report said.

You can view the full report from the EPA here. That wasn’t all they were critical of:

In the report, the EPA also criticized the DEP because several programs, including site remediation and the wetlands program, operate outside the department’s quality assurance system. The audit noted that many site remediation staff and managers didn’t even know that the DEP has an Office of Quality Assurance.

While the report was critical of short comings, it wasn’t all negative:

Some positive highlights were noted during EPA’s closing meeting with Department’s senior managers. Among the highlights were that the Office of Quality Assurance’s Laboratory Certification Program has improved the frequency of laboratory audits since our last assessment of the program in 2005. Also, the Bureau of Surface Water Permitting, the Bureau of Technical Services, and the Bureau of Environmental Radiation were found to be in compliance with the NJDEP Quality Management Plan and have functioning quality systems.

Environmental groups took the report as confirmation of many of the points they have been making. It’s an odd situation to have, but such is the case with the latest EPA audit:

A 2005 EPA audit identified many areas for DEP improvement, which the DEP responded to in 2006 with a list of corrective actions it would take. This new audit notes that “many of the corrective actions identified … were never completed” by the DEP.

Those corrective actions had been outlined in a plan issued by then-DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, who took over the EPA earlier this year. The audit and its critique of DEP performance provide an awkward instance of the agency Jackson used to run coming under criticism by the agency she heads now.

The DEP said they would need time to review the whole report before commenting. It’s only 32 pages. The Governor touted many of his administrations efforts recently on Blue Jersey radio, but this report says there is much more that needs to be done.

One response to the backlog of contaminated sites has been the recent creation of the Licensed Site Remediation Program to “help streamline the process”, but some including environmental groups have been very critical of that effort and have raised concerns. It’s clear by the backlog of contaminated sites that the DEP didn’t have the resources to handle the problem even before cuts over the last few years, the question has always been what to do about it?

Lisa Jackson’s EPA Blasts Lisa Jackson’s Management of NJ DEP

 News Releases

For Immediate Release: August 27, 2009

Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Jeff Ruch (202) 265-7337

EPA AUDIT RIPS NEW JERSEY DEP PERFORMANCE – Corrective Actions Never Implemented for Toxic, Wetlands and Other Programs

Washington, DC – A new audit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faults the quality and consistency of New Jersey programs for cleaning up toxic wastes, preserving wetlands and other key functions, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Many of the defects were first identified in a 2006 audit but Lisa Jackson, then head of the New Jersey agency and now EPA Administrator, neglected to put in place most of the corrective steps she had pledged to implement.

The new EPA audit of “Quality System Assessment” reviews whether the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) can measure what it does, whether its data is reliable and how it tracks results over time. While EPA found that DEP had made some progress, the federal agency concluded that several major DEP components suffer from “significant shortcomings” and fail to meet minimal federal standards for management quality and performance. Among the findings are –

The state program for cleaning up toxic wastes operates on an honor system and does not check industry claims: “None of the Site Remediation Program’s bureaus interviewed do any project assessment and/or process improvement beyond data validation, (i.e. no field audits, no split samples, no internal assessments, etc). The EPA assessment team was told that Responsible Party contractors and/or NJDEP contractors are ‘certified professionals and taken at their word'”;

The state wetland protection program lacks any quality assurances that its permit, land use and inventory of rare species habitat is accurate; and

Many of the steps that EPA identified in a previous audit to improve departmental performance, including data collection, tracking and training, were still absent three years later despite a Corrective Action Plan submitted in April 21, 2006 by then-DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson laying out an implementation schedule. Jackson remained Commissioner for the next two and a half years after submitting that plan and was confirmed to lead EPA this past January.

This audit is an indictment of DEP management for failing fundamental tests of competence,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “Without basic procedures for assuring the accuracy and quality of performance data a public agency cannot even be sure that its shoes are tied.”

This audit is just the latest failing grade issued to DEP management. In 2008, for example, EPA was forced to intervene and assume control of several state-supervised Superfund clean-ups, following a scathing Inspector General report decrying inordinate delays and mismanagement. Ironically, Jackson’s prior EPA experience before she came to DEP had been in Superfund.

“Recent DEP Commissioners, including Lisa Jackson, have been far more concerned with political appearances than reality,” added Wolfe, noting that an agency review commissioned by Jackson in 2008 did not mention a single issue tagged by the new EPA audit. “In order to effectively protect New Jersey’s environment, we need to let public servant specialists do the job they are supposed to do.”

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Read the EPA audit on Quality Assessment

Look at the scathing 2008 Superfund audit

Review Lisa Jackson’s record at New Jersey DEP

Revisit Jackson’s DEP efficiency review

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability