This week the Environmental Protection Agency turns 40! On December 2 the agency celebrates four decades of working hard to protect America’s air, water and environment. Defenders had the opportunity to ask Administrator Lisa Jackson for her thoughts about where the EPA is now – and where it’s going. Here’s the first part of what she had to say:
LJ: The BP oil spill was the most urgent challenge in our first two years. It was the largest oil spill in our nation’s history; it required the work of thousands of people from multiple government agencies; and it was a very personal experience for me as a native of that region and someone who has watched it go through so much in recent years.
Our work is just beginning. President Obama has directed me to chair the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force and move the region from emergency response to recovery. In the face of such an enormous challenge, there’s nowhere I would rather be.
DoW: What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
LJ: One of the greatest, often unnoticed, challenges in America today is environmental disparities. Too often poor and minority communities live in the shadows of the worst pollution and suffer the most from it. Yet, they have little voice when it comes to environmental issues. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to change the face of environmentalism and expand the conversation on these critical issues. We’ve issued clear rulemaking guidance so environmental justice concerns are a part of every decision we make at EPA, visited numerous EJ communities across the country, and convened a White House meeting of the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. It was the first time the leadership of the working group had met in more than a decade.
DoW: Can you speak to how the EPA can take administrative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and why this is so critical?
LJ: Since coming into office we’ve issued our endangerment finding and implemented the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars, trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. We’re continuing to work on commonsense rules that will phase in emissions standards for our largest greenhouse gas sources, like power plants or refiners. These steps are critical, not just to following the orders of the Supreme Court, but to protecting the communities – both human and wildlife – that depend on a healthy planet. Still, these actions will not be able to match the effectiveness of comprehensive legislation. We continue to call for bipartisan congressional action to grow our clean energy economy, cut greenhouse gases and shrink our dependence on foreign oil.
DoW: Since Congress did not pass a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions, addressing climate change impacts to natural resources becomes even more critical. How does EPA plan to integrate climate adaptation into its program(s)?
LJ: Climate adaptation is a priority across the agency because the same changes we make to adapt better to a changing climate also protect our habitats and make our communities healthier. They spur investments in clean energy that make America more competitive and our economy stronger. And they make us more energy-independent, in turn making our country more secure as we rely less on foreign oil.
Stay tuned for more from Administrator Lisa Jackson on December 2, the EPA’s 40th birthday!