Lisa Jackson Says She Is Bringing New Energy to the EPA

The new Environmental Protection Agency head talks about climate change and air pollution.


EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson


The EPA recently announced it was going to conduct more diligent reviews of permits for mountaintop coal mining operations. Some accused you of trying to halt such projects. What's happening here?

EPA has a job to do when it comes to those permits, which is to review the permits specifically with an eye towards tracking down and identifying any significant impact on water and water quality. EPA will review permits. It will identify those permits that have the potential to significantly impact water quality. It will comment on those permits. It will do that in a very open and transparent manner. And in those cases where our comments aren't heeded, we won't hesitate to elevate or take whatever other actions are necessary. The statute actually allows us to elevate and then, if necessary, even object to permits being issued. It's a scientifically based, permit-by-permit job. We were saying nothing more, and we continue to say nothing more, other than that we will do our job. It is a very important job. What can EPA do to educate Americans on environmental issues? With debates over things like a cap-and-trade emissions system, there's a lot of jargon to cut through.

Some of the biggest challenges that confront our country require people to change how they view the environment and how they view their role in contributing to environmental protection. People have to step up—to deal with everything from energy efficiency to the kinds of cars they buy to how they choose to live to where they choose to live. All those decisions require an educated and informed citizen. When it's doing its job, EPA is much more than a regulatory agency. It's a source of information; it's an educator; it is sometimes an advocate for greener technologies and sustainability. EPA has a high ratio of scientists who can be and should be cutting edge in the field, and the American people should expect no less from us. What more can you do?

As EPA enters its 40th year, one of the things we are going to be doing is asking ourselves hard questions about what the next 40 years of EPA should be. One of the things we have to realize is that America has changed a lot. Young people of today get information in very different ways. The demographics of our country have changed. A lot of people live in the city, and they wonder how something called the EPA relates to their lives. We have to meet the American people where they are and speak to them in their language and make them understand how vitally important the environment is, not only to our planet but to their health and their family's health. So, more social networking?

Well, EPA already has a presence, I know, on Facebook. I'm not sure about Twitter. Certainly, picking up on President Obama's success with new media is important. The first Earth Day was in many ways inspired by youth, so we want to make sure youth are embraced and see themselves in the next 40 years at EPA.

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