EPA Boss Lisa Jackson in Hot Water Over Job-Killing Policies
Florida businesses, and even Democrats, challenge chief on science, economy
Around the State
Floridians looking for "hope and change" aren't necessarily getting what they expected from the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency.
Under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, the EPA has alternately antagonized and disappointed business leaders and environmentalists.
Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, lit into Jackson on Fox News last week, declaring that her agency is "killing" the economy.
"I think that the face of the 2012 election is going to be EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She is killing jobs quicker than the president can create them," said Bishop, who describes himself as a "lifelong Democrat."
AIF and other Florida business groups have waged a water war with the EPA over proposed numeric nutrient criteria that could saddle the state with hundreds of millions of dollars in compliance costs.
"[Lisa Jackson] thinks she talks to God and she’s the only one who knows exactly what is the right thing to do about our environment," Bishop said last month.
Jackson, who formerly served as commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection under then-Gov. Jon Corzine, has become a lightning rod of controversy on a host of other issues.
New and proposed EPA regulations are crippling the energy industry, says U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Orlando. The freshman congresswoman blamed Jackson's agency for "red tape and bureaucratic obstacles that have served as barriers to job creation and energy production."
Adams has joined other House lawmakers in pushing HR 2021, which she says will "eliminate unnecessary permitting delays that have stalled American energy production and the creation of thousands of American jobs."
EPA LEAKING IN FLORIDA WATER FIGHT
Heading toward the 2012 election, President Obama has begun touting an effort to shed or streamline onerous regulations. Apparently, Jackson hasn't gotten the memo.
Though promising in her official biography posted on the EPA site to "follow the best science," Jackson's water-quality fight with Florida has split the scientific community.
Testifying at a House committee hearing on Friday, Rich Budell, director of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agriculture Water Policy, pointed out:
“In the preamble to their rule, EPA admits that they were unable to find a cause-and-effect relationship between nutrient concentration and biological response for flowing waters like streams and rivers.
"In the absence of that cause-and-effect relationship, there can be no certainty that the money and human resources devoted to reduce nutrient content in a stream or river will result in any measurable improvement in the biological condition of that stream or river."
Budell went on to challenge Jackson's pledge of "transparency" in the EPA rule-making process.
"While Florida’s sunshine laws make all data available to the public, EPA restricted public access to this information and did not make all relevant analyses available for comment throughout the rule-making process," he testified.
Budell also said the methods used by Jackson's agency to construct its rules were inconsistent with the agency's own guidance documents and the advice of EPA’s Science Advisory Board.
On Thursday, a letter to Jackson from 50 government agencies and private industry associations around the country condemned the EPA's handling of water-quality issues.
"The EPA’s insistence that states must ultimately develop independently applicable [numeric nutrient criteria] for all water bodies, even in the absence of a cause-and-effect relationship between the nutrient level and achievement of designated uses, is not scientifically defensible and is undermining innovative state approaches to reducing nutrient pollution.
"Continued controversy among EPA, states, and the regulated community over EPA’s approach to nutrients is slowing progress toward reducing impairments associated with excess nutrients," the letter stated.
MIXED REPORT CARD FROM ENVIRONMENTALISTS
Jackson says she is focused on "core issues of protecting air and water quality, preventing exposure to toxic contamination in our communities and reducing greenhouse gases," but her politically correct agenda extends to other areas.
At the website Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Jackson's EPA links with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation to "revitalize neighborhoods with convenient, affordable transit and clean energy."
So far, seven states and the District of Columbia have received grants for projects. Florida is not among them. That omission irks state environmentalists already miffed at what they see as Jackson's failure to deliver on the basics.
John S. Glenn, of Fernandina Beach, said Jackson neglected to "remonstrate or publicly correct" a high-level EPA official for "badly muffing public questions concerning the massive use of so-called dispersants on the BP [Gulf] blowout."
A New York Times article subsequently said Paul Anastas, the assistant administrator of the agency's Office of Research and Development, "doesn't stray from the agency line and is mindful to heap praise on his bosses, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Obama."
Glenn said Anastas erred in focusing on "a tiny sample of creatures, far up the food chain, in determining that no significant damage had been done by imposing millions of gallons of chemical dispersants into the fragile marine environment."
"I recall no mention of the miniscule organisms that form the absolute base of the food chain for all marine creatures," Glenn said.
If Jackson, who earned a master's degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University, came up short on the Gulf spill, other environmentalists are willing to cut her some slack.
Cara Campbell, chair of the Florida Ecology Party, applauded Jackson's "excellent" decision to challenge permits for mountaintop removal of coal.
"We can only hope she'll be brave and principled enough to challenge all the phosphate and other rock mining permits in Florida," Campbell said.
But Campbell suggested that the jury is still out on Jackson.
"We are also waiting to see if the EPA will stand by its mandate and challenge any permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers or other federal agencies for new nuclear plants [at Levy County and Turkey Point] that involve wetland destruction."
TAKING MORE HITS ON CAPITOL HILL
Jackson, the first African-American to head the EPA, has worked 16 years at the agency, which has grown to 17,000 employees. Her official biography says that as administrator, she "has made it a priority to focus on vulnerable groups including children, the elderly and low-income communities that are particularly susceptible to environmental and health threats."
But Jackson is under increasing pressure from Republicans and business groups as the economy stalls. GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann said at a recent CNN debate that she would shut down the agency altogether.
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, said, “The policies [Jackson] is pursuing could not come at a worse time as they will have a profound adverse impact on our economy.
"This agency lives in a world of its own and shows a total disconnect with what is going on in the rest of the economy.
"It's long past due that those running the EPA realize what most Americans have already figured out: EPA policies are having a chilling effect on creating U.S. jobs and the ability of U.S.-based companies to compete overseas,” Posey said.
And the heat isn't just coming from Republicans, observes U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta.
“In all the hearings I’ve attended as a member of Congress, I’ve never been to one like Lisa Jackson’s appearance before the House Agriculture Committee. All the members of the committee -- Republicans and Democrats -- were up in arms over the EPA’s agenda. I’ve never seen a witness from the administration get attacked like that from members of the president’s own party," Rooney related.
“People across the country, from both parties, are just fed up with the EPA’s anti-farm, anti-jobs agenda. They’re pursuing rules and regulations -- which could never pass Congress -- and that are proving devastating for the agriculture community, our manufacturers, and our job creators," the congressman told Sunshine State News.
Rooney said he is especially concerned about the nutrient standards pushed by the EPA.
“Florida has been particularly singled out by the EPA. We’re being used as guinea pigs for new, extremely stringent water regulations," he said.
“I’ve been working hard with members of Florida’s congressional delegation from both parties, including Senator [Bill] Nelson, to get the EPA to complete an independent review of the science behind the rule, and to complete a thorough economic analysis, but they have repeatedly refused."
Rooney said he met with Jackson last year on the issue.
"Not only would she not agree to complete the most basic scientific and economic studies to back up the rule and analyze its impact, she kicked us out of her office. That kind of ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ attitude isn’t helpful as we try to reach a compromise, which is my goal," he said.
"I want clean water for Florida and I think we can reach an agreeable solution if we bring everyone to the table, but so far Lisa Jackson has not seemed open to that idea.”
The EPA's public affairs department did not respond to Sunshine State News by deadline.
Gov. Rick Scott's office declined to comment for this article.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 802-5341.