On Wednesday night, I found myself on top of a mountain in Aspen, listening to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson give the kickoff keynote at the Aspen Environmental Forum. Speaking in a deliberate style that reflects her Southern roots, Jackson made it clear to the 300 people assembled that the days of Environmental Destruction Agency in the Bush era are now officially over.
Jackson emphasized that the Obama administration’s top priorities are climate change and building a green economy led by sustainable energy policies. She pledged support for renewables that reduce our dependence on foreign oil from politically charged nations, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the creation of tens of thousands of new green jobs, and improved public health of communities suffering from the impacts of dirty fossil fuels.
Money talks, so it’s worth noting that the Obama administration has called for the largest EPA budget in the 39-year history of the agency.
Jackson highlighted EPA’s recent endangerment finding that declares carbon dioxide a human health threat. She also promised that the Obama administration will work with Congress to develop a strong cap-and-trade greenhouse gas system. She also mentioned EPA’s imminent ruling on California’s application for a Clean Air Act waiver to let the state move forward on better controlling carbon content in fuels. These policies mark a drastic shift from the Bush years of denial about climate change.
She also spoke of the recent U.S. leadership at the annual UN Environmental Program meeting in Nairobi. America was never proactive on UN environmental issues under the previous administration. At the UNEP meeting, the U.S. delegation led the way to push for mandatory mercury reduction targets worldwide, and China and India joined the call.
She promised that the administration will tackle environmental justice issues by working in the impacted communities and directly addressing the people and businesses most affected by pollution issues.
All of us were inspired enough to give her a well-deserved standing O. The next step is for Jackson to put together a team of strong and effective environmental leaders to get the nation on the right track of environmental protection with innovative solutions.
Finding the right people to pass Congressional muster could be difficult as demonstrated by the unfortunate fate of Jackson’s proposed No. 2, the well-qualified Jon Cannon. He withdrew Wednesday before Senate confirmation because of scrutiny over his affiliation as a board member of the now dissolved America’s Clean Water Foundation, a group that suffered a black eye over diverting $20 million in federal funds to the national Pork Producer Council.
Despite the setback, Jackson gives me hope that she will appoint people that will aggressively implement Obama’s forward-thinking environmental agenda.