Jackson Stepping Down as EPA Administrator

Oversaw GHG Rule for Trucks During Tenure
By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Jan. 7 print edition of Transport Topics.

Lisa Jackson will step down soon as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency after four years that included the development of the first greenhouse-gas standards for heavy-duty trucks.

Jackson said she plans to leave shortly after President Obama gives the State of the Union address, which is usually delivered in late January.

“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,” Jackson said in a Dec. 27 statement.

Jackson, 50, was the agency’s first African-American administrator. She did not cite a reason for leaving, but it is common for many top administration officials to move on at the beginning of a president’s second term.

Obama thanked Jackson for her service, which started in February 2009 after she was confirmed by the Senate.

“Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, including implementing the first national standard for harmful mercury pollution, taking important action to combat climate change under the Clean Air Act, and playing a key role in establishing historic fuel economy standards that will save the average American family thousands of dollars at the pump, while also slashing carbon pollution,” Obama said.

He has not yet appointed a successor, but Bob Perciasepe, the deputy administrator, will act as administrator until a permanent appointment is made, an agency spokesman said.

Under Jackson’s leadership, EPA announced in 2011 the nation’s first regulation to limit emissions of carbon dioxide from heavy trucks. By the time it takes full effect in 2017, the regulation will reduce output of CO2, a greenhouse gas, by about 20% over 2010 models, the agency said.

For the trucking industry, the greenhouse-gas regulation was the most significant EPA action under Jackson, said Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel for American Trucking Associations.

“We were able to have lots of stakeholder input throughout the regulatory process,” Kedzie told Transport Topics, adding that although he did not meet with Jackson directly, the agency allowed many of her high-ranking employees to work closely with ATA.

Jackson said of the changes, “More efficient trucks on our highways and less pollution from the buses in our neighborhoods will allow us to breathe cleaner air and use less oil, providing a wide range of benefits to our health, our environment and our economy.”

The regulation, set to start taking effect in 2014, also included the first fuel-economy standards for heavy vehicles, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Under Jackson, the EPA also implemented in 2010 a new limit on emissions of nitrogen oxides from diesel engines. But that limit was developed in 2000, well before her arrival.

But Jackson’s leadership of the EPA wasn’t without criticism, either.

Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the EPA under Jackson “has been largely tone-deaf or totally oblivious to the realities of most small businesses.”

OOIDA hopes that a new administrator would change that course, Taylor said.

Jackson’s departure is unlikely to cause immediate changes in the regulatory landscape for trucking, according to Kedzie.

“The changing of the guard is not really going to change anything moving ahead in terms of the trucking industry’s interests,” he said.

Perciasepe is a likely candidate to replace Jackson, Kedzie said. He worked under Perciasepe as an EPA attorney from 1990 to 1998 and said Perciasepe would likely continue the EPA’s previously established regulatory agenda.

The most recent agenda, published days before Jackson’s announcement, does not include any new regulations for heavy vehicles.

If Obama nominates him, Perciasepe would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Before Obama nominated Jackson to lead the EPA, she was the chief of staff to then-New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat. Prior to that, she led New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, and worked for EPA under President Clinton.