Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who Would Want Lisa Jackson's Job?

Lisa Jackson is stepping down as EPA Administrator (see, e.g., here). In my view, she did a tremendous job getting through regulations that are important both for protecting public health and for reducing the tremendous social costs associated with pollution, despite outright hostility from Republicans in Congress and tepid support, at best, from the White House. Highlights of her tenure at the agency will include promulgation of a long overdue regulation on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and, of course, a spate of greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, which made her the single most effective US government official ever to deal with the problem of climate change (although, admittedly, that's not saying very much). Her worst moment had to be when President Obama strung her out to dry on the promised reconsideration of the Bush Administration's new rules on ozone emissions. Carrying out a campaign promise candidate Obama made, Jackson convinced the courts to let EPA fix the rule before they did, only to have President Obama pull the rug out from under her at the last minute, based on political cost calculations heading into the 2012 election campaign.

She's going to be a hard act to follow. But, really, who would want job anyway? With a House of Representatives run by a Party that insanely wants to abolish the EPA, and drags the Administrator through unproductive, inquisitorial hearings on a regular basis, with a Senate where even Demos seem scared by the phrase "environmental protection," and with a White House that can be counted on for support only so long as the polls are favorable, I cannot imagine the number of applicants would be very high. On the other hand, I had a hard time imagining that anyone would want the EPA job under W. after the well-meaning Christy Whitman had taken enough abuse (from her own team). And yet, there always seems to be some faceless, spineless, career bureaucrat who will step up to the plate just to get the title, even if it means being a sucker, a prevaricator, and/or a whipping post.

Lisa Jackson deserves better of her successor, and so do the rest of us. 

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