By RYAN TRACY
Agency chief Lisa Jackson said Thursday she would leave her
post early next year, following a tumultuous four years in
which she pursued the first US greenhouse-gas regulations and
battled Republican efforts to limit her agency's powers.
Ms. Jackson has served in the role since early
in President Barack Obama's first term.
She said in a statement that she "will leave
the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction,
and ready in my own life for new challenges, times with my
family and opportunities to make a difference."
She said the agency has made "historic
progress" on cleaning up pollution and protecting the
environment and public health. She said she would depart after
Mr. Obama's State of the Union address.
The president on Thursday thanked Ms. Jackson
for "her tireless efforts to benefit the American people" and
said "under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and
important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we
Republicans and industry groups often
criticized Ms. Jackson, saying her agency's regulations were
killing jobs and raising uncertainty for business.
Scott Segal, a partner at Bracewell &
Giuliani who represents utilities that use coal, said Thursday
that Ms. Jackson "presided over some of the most expensive and
controversial rules in agency history."
At one point, Ms. Jackson's aggressive
approach to curbing pollution ran into opposition from her
boss. In September 2011, Mr. Obama overruled Ms. Jackson and
ordered the administration to withdraw a proposed tightening of
the national standard for smog pollution, even though Ms.
Jackson had said a stricter standard was necessary to protect
Ms. Jackson and her deputies testified before
Congress regularly, most often before House Republicans who
pushed bills that would curb the EPA's power. The bills were
blocked by Senate Democrats.
Ms. Jackson pushed back against
the criticism, asserting for instance that her power plant
regulations were preventing soot pollution that could harm
children or the elderly. She said the agency's regulations
created jobs because US companies could be leaders in
In February 2011, Leo Gerard, international
president of the United Steelworkers, gave Ms. Jackson a pair
of boxing gloves as a birthday gift, citing her many tussles
Ms. Jackson generally won high praise from
"Health and environmental advocates will
definitely miss her," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the
advocacy group Clean Air Watch. "She has been a real champion
for clean air."
Ms. Jackson in 2009 made a formal finding that
greenhouse gas emissions posed a danger to public health and
began the first push to regulate them. As part of that effort,
the EPA adopted new national standards for vehicle fuel
efficiency and proposed regulations that would essentially ban
new coal-fired power plants unless they use a carbon capture technology that is not yet
She also led the agency as it made final
long-pending limits on pollutants such as mercury from
coal-fired power plants and industrial boilers that burn coal for
While Ms. Jackson's EPA accomplished much of
its clean air agenda, it also suffered some setbacks.
In August, the US Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit threw out a regulation to curb air
pollution that wafts across state lines, sending Ms. Jackson
back to the drawing board on one of her major
In March, a federal judge reversed the agency's 2011 decision
to revoke a permit from a large mountaintop coal mine in West
Virginia. The judge said the agency overstepped its
Ms. Jackson clashed with lawmakers on the
agency's oversight of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the technology that has helped fuel a
boom in US oil and gas
production. The EPA earlier this year adopted rules
limiting air pollution from natural
gas wells. Its scientists said they found a link between
fracking and groundwater contamination in Wyoming, a conclusion
the industry disputes.
Ms. Jackson's successor is likely to oversee
the completion of the agency's yearslong study of fracking's
impact on groundwater and any resulting regulatory push, as
well as regulations limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from
hundreds of existing US coal plants. Mr. Obama's choice could
be an early signal of how he plans to approach environmental
issues in a second term.