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EPA chief quits; fought to cut emissions

Jackson faced GOP accusations of overreach

Jackson

– Lisa Jackson said Thursday she will step down as head of the Environmental Protection Agency after four years during which she oversaw the first efforts to curb carbon-dioxide emissions to combat global-warming risks.

“I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction,” Jackson, 50, said in a statement from the agency. Her plan is to depart after the president’s State of the Union speech next month.

Under Jackson, the EPA negotiated stricter fuel-efficiency standards with automakers and proposed the first-ever rules for mercury pollution and carbon emissions at power plants, often triggering protests from industry and Republicans in Congress. Jackson, the first black person to head the agency, also pushed to ensure that poor and minority groups don’t bear the brunt of environmental risks.

“Over the last four years, Lisa Jackson has shown an unwavering commitment to the health of our families and our children,” President Obama said in a statement. “Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Possible successors include Bob Perciasepe, the agency’s No. 2 official; Heather Zichal, the top White House aide for energy and environment; Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air pollution; and Dan Esty, the top environmental regulator in Connecticut and a former Yale University professor, environmental advocates said.

Obama, re-elected last month, is seeking replacements for agency and department heads who have indicated they won’t serve in a second term, such as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Obama last week nominated Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said she plans to leave the post of secretary of state.

Health and environmental groups have praised Jackson for taking up rules that were delayed or weakened under the previous administration, while Republicans in Congress complained that the EPA’s efforts were choking off the still-struggling U.S. economy.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., when he took over as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year said that Jackson would need her own parking space on Capitol Hill because he planned to call her so often to testify on the EPA’s regulations.

House Republicans unsuccessfully sought to overturn by legislation the greenhouse-gas curbs. As head of the EPA, Jackson often bore the brunt of Republican complaints about regulatory overreach from Washington.

Even critics said Jackson, who grew up in a section of New Orleans all but destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University, is an effective communicator.

Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has called climate change a hoax, has nevertheless spoken warmly about Jackson, one of the administration’s main cheerleaders for action to deal with risks associated with rising global temperatures.

Jackson kept a framed holiday card from Inhofe on her EPA office shelf.

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