Lisa Jackson, the first African-American administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is stepping down early next year, she announced Dec. 27.
Jackson, 50, a chemical engineer by training, did not give any reasons for her departure, saying only that she would leave President Obama’s cabinet after his State of the Union speech.
“I want to thank President Obama for the honor he bestowed on me and the confidence he placed in me four years ago this month when he announced my nomination as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Jackson said in a statement. “I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference.”
In a statement President Obama called Jackson “an important part of my team” and wished her the best in the future.
Jackson’s four-year tenure has been one of several highs and many lows. She entered the agency with hopes of sweeping reforms to combat climate change and other environmental ills. But much of those plans were stymied by an often hostile Republican Congress and fuel industry, and even the White House itself, which abandoned its plans for large-scale environmental reform under the pressures of the economy and its re-election effort.
A cap-and-trade bill that would have limited climate-altering emissions passed the House but was abandoned after it stalled in the Senate in 2010. A proposed policy to change the standard of ozone pollution was withdrawn in 2011 as President Obama said the toll would be too onerous for companies and local governments to bear in the still tough economy.
Jackson has had some significant victories, however, most notably the finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases meet the criteria of pollutants under the Clean Air Act has led to new stricter emissions standards for cars and light trucks. The policy will double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles over the next decade, but it also opens the door for similar emissions policy reform for industries.
While Jackson has been criticized by environmental groups for compromising, Black environmental and public health advocates have praised her efforts to improve the health of every American.
“Administrator Lisa Jackson has been an unwavering advocate in the fight to protect all communities from an onslaught of pollution,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “Her work finalizing the Mercury and Air Toxic rules and soot standards will help lessen the risk of heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, birth defects, and bronchitis for families living near coal-fired power plants. We applaud her for her dedicated leadership. We encourage President Obama to nominate a successor to Administrator Jackson that will maintain and build upon her legacy of courage, commitment, and inclusion."
“As many African Americans and other vulnerable communities continue to be disproportionately affected by air pollution and other environmental hazards, Ms. Jackson is committed to making environmental equality and justice a priority,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, (D-Mo.) said in a statement. “I applaud her for her efforts and know the Obama Administration will continue to build upon the foundation she’s laid through her vast accomplishments.”