Jackson to get EPA gig?

Lisa Jackson, the outgoing commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection and a co-chair of Barack Obama’s environmental transition team, looks increasingly likely to take over the Environmental Protection Agency when the president-elect takes office. According to E&E News ($ub req.), the Princeton-trained chemical engineer has moved to the top tier of potential EPA chiefs, and is passing the transition-team vetting process with flying colors.

Jackson had reportedly been running neck-and-neck with California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols for the EPA gig, but according to unnamed sources moved to the top of the heap when California Democrat Henry Waxman won the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. With San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi overseeing the House climate battle and California Senator Barbara Boxer on point in the Senate, the Obama transition team apparently feared that Nichols would be a Californian too far.

Either way, Jackson is a strong choice for EPA chief: unlike onetime frontrunner Robert F Kennedy Jr, she brings not just celebrity but genuine expertise. She’s a trained scientist, and spent 15 years working at the US EPA before heading to the Garden State, focusing on hazardous-waste cleanup and enforcement, and knows the Agency’s culture and jargon inside out. She’s also proven herself capable of managing a large statewide agency - and maintaining a cosy relationship with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who recently recruited her as his chief of staff - without alienating local green groups. "She's someone I can always work with,” local Sierra Club chief Jeff Tittel told E&E News. “She's always stood up for principles. Quite frankly, she'd be an outstanding choice."

Just as importantly, Jackson has real experience managing precisely the kinds of problems that will face the next EPA chief. She’s played an important role in passing legislation requiring mandatory cuts in greenhouse emissions. And she’s also served as vice-president on the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing global-warming emissions in the Northeast. With Jackson running the EPA - and Agency veteran Bob Sussman, her transition team co-chair, likely to take a senior deputy role - Obama would have precisely the combination of expertise and managerial talent he needs to deliver on the changes he’s promised.

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