* EPA chief clashed often with Republicans, industry groups
* Deputy to be interim chief, among candidates to take over
* Decision on fracking rules looms large on EPA's agenda
* First of Obama's energy, environment team to depart
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Dec 27 U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency chief Lisa Jackson, who spearheaded the Obama
administration's crackdown on carbon emissions, said on Thursday
she will step down after almost four years of battles with
Republican lawmakers and industry over proposed regulations.
Under her leadership, the agency declared for the first time
that carbon dioxide was a danger to human health and could be
regulated under the Clean Air Act, leading the EPA to develop a
new regulatory regime to limit carbon emissions.
Industry groups and Republican lawmakers opposed Jackson's
efforts to fight climate change, hauling her in for numerous
hearings in Congress, and she faced some pushback from within
the administration too.
She won praise from many environmental groups, while others
complained her EPA was too timid. It was unclear what direction
the administration will take on climate change during President
Barack Obama's second term.
Obama thanked Jackson for her service, praising her work on
mercury pollution limits, fighting climate change and helping
set new fuel economy standards for vehicles.
"Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and
important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we
drink," Obama said in a statement.
Jackson, the first black administrator of the 17,000-strong
EPA, said in a statement she was "confident the (EPA) ship is
sailing in the right direction."
Jackson, 50, is expected to leave her cabinet position after
Obama's State of the Union address in early 2013. Leading the
list of potential replacements are Bob Perciasepe, deputy EPA
administrator, who will take over the agency on an interim
basis; and Kathleen McGinty, a former head of Pennsylvania's
Department of Environmental Protection and a protege of former
U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Also said to be in the mix are Gina McCarthy, the EPA's
assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation; and
Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board.
Jackson's departure was not a surprise. Analysts had not
expected her to stay for Obama's second term.
The administration is expected to face a tough fight to get
any potential nominee confirmed by the Senate -- especially any
candidate seen as being in the mold of Jackson.
"Secretary Jackson played the environmental 'bad cop' to
President Obama's more moderate 'good cop,' but the result of
their tag-team effort has been a huge expansion of the EPA's
power. That's the exact opposite of what is needed," said S. T.
Karnick, research director at the Heartland Institute, a Chicago
group that is skeptical of man-made climate change.
Jackson is the first major energy policy official to step
aside since Obama's re-election last month. Some have speculated
that Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel prize-winning
physicist who has also clashed with industry, will also depart,
as may Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Republican lawmakers accused Jackson's EPA of massive
government overreach that choked economic growth, and passed
numerous bills aimed at undoing the regulations. Obama did not
sign their bills into law, but the White House did begin to pull
back or delay rules in the face of the relentless onslaught.
Some speculated Jackson would step down in 2011, when Obama
decided to delay rules to restrict emissions of smog-forming
chemicals from power plants.
"From an energy and consumer perspective, it has to be said
that the Jackson EPA presided over some of the most expensive
and controversial rules in agency history," said Scott Segal,
director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which
lobbied against many of the EPA's proposed regulations.
States and governors fought Jackson's rules in the courts,
scoring a win in August when a U.S. appeals court overturned the
EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, aimed at reducing harmful
emissions from coal-burning power plants.
On Thursday, many environmentalists and public health
advocates hailed Jackson, saying she leaves a legacy of cleaner
"Administrator Jackson has been one of the most effective
leaders in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency,"
Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation.
Jackson is a chemical engineer by training, and reports in
recent weeks suggested she might be under consideration for the
post of president of Princeton University. She is also a
one-time chief of staff of New Jersey Governor John Corzine, and
other media reports say she may be mulling a run for governor of
Despite contentious dealings with Congress, Jackson
maintained a cordial relationship with one of her biggest
critics, Senator Jim Inhofe. She even kept a photo of the
Oklahoma Republican and his grandchildren in her office.
"Lisa Jackson and I disagreed on many issues and regulations
while she headed the EPA, however, I have always appreciated her
receptivity to my concerns, her accessibility and her honesty,"
said Inhofe, who has called climate change a hoax, chided the
Obama administration for a "far left green agenda" and
vigorously opposed carbon regulations.
Inhofe said Jackson's departure offers the White House the
chance to appoint someone "who appreciates the needs of our
UNFINISHED AGENDA INCLUDES FRACKING
A self-described pragmatist, Jackson passionately fought to
limit air pollution. She often described her two sons' struggles
with asthma when discussing the importance of clean air.
Jackson also rejected her critics' complaints that stronger
environmental rules were incompatible with a robust economy.
When broad climate change legislation sputtered in Congress
in 2010, the EPA became the White House's main vehicle for
addressing carbon emissions.
Since then, the agency has finalized rules outlining
restrictions on carbon emissions for new power plants,
effectively prohibiting the construction of new coal-fired
plants without carbon-capture and storage technology.
Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke
said Jackson's successor "will inherit an unfinished agenda
that begins with the issuance of new health protections against
carbon pollution from existing power plants - the largest
remaining driver of climate change that needs to be controlled."
The EPA also will help decide whether the federal government
will regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The drilling
technique has sparked a boom in U.S. energy production but
opponents have linked it to water pollution and other problems.
Most regulation of fracking has fallen to the states, but
the EPA has said it plans to propose standards on wastewater
from gas wells by 2014 and is considering rules that would
require more disclosure about the chemicals used in fracking.
U.S. oil and gas production has reached record levels in
recent years. Even so, drillers have complained that EPA has
taken too heavy a hand in regulating energy production and warn
that onerous rules could crimp oil and gas output.
"In the past four years, EPA has hindered development of our
nation's oil and natural gas resources by making it difficult
for America's independent producers to overcome the enormous
regulatory obstacles to operate," said Julia Bell, spokeswoman
for the Independent Petroleum Association of America.