EPA Nominee Jackson Under Pressure From Democrats to Rejuvenate Environmental Agency

Republicans warn her against overreaching, but Democrats want Jackson to reverse Bush legacy at EPA.

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Interactive: Obama Transition 2009

This morning's confirmation hearing for Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, made it clear just how much work Democratic lawmakers see ahead for her to reverse the EPA's troubled legacy under the Bush administration.

"The EPA needs to be awakened from a deep and nightmarish sleep," Democratic California Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told Jackson.

"EPA," Boxer went on, "must rely on science, not on special interests. EPA must listen to its professional staff and independent experts, not lobbyists who have a special economic stake." Boxer and other Democrats have pointedly accused Stephen Johnson, the Bush administration's current EPA administrator, of repeatedly ignoring scientific findings of the agency's scientists.

Boxer's comments were roundly countered by many Republicans, who, over the next few hours, advised Jackson against regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and asked her to keep industry considerations in mind when issuing regulations.

Said Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican: "I am hopeful that the new administration will resist calls for overreaching."

Inhofe, a prominent global-warming skeptic, later added that Johnson had done "a very good job in a very difficult environment."

For her part, Jackson, a Princeton University-trained chemical engineer who served as New Jersey's chief environmental regulator from 2006 to November of last year, did her best to avoid too much controversy. "Science must be the backbone of what EPA does," she said. "If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide."

At the same time, she offered some consolation to Republicans by promising to consider "stewardship side by side with robust economic growth."

Jackson also pledged to review California's request for an EPA waiver to regulate emissions for automobile tailpipes, which the Bush administration has refused to grant. "You have my commitment that I will immediately revisit the waiver, looking at the science and rule of law and relying on the expert advice of EPA employees," Jackson said. But she did not go so far as to say that she would approve it, something that Obama has, in the past, agreed to do.