Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Is Back in the Spotlight

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In this April 17, 2012 file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson gestures during an interview with The Associated Press at EPA Headquarters in Washington. The White House says tackling climate change and enhancing energy security will be among President Barack Obama's top priorities in his second term. Obama will have to do that work with new heads of the agencies responsible for the environment. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection chief Lisa Jackson and Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all have announced they are leaving. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is expected to follow his colleagues out the door in coming weeks.
National Journal
Clare Foran Mike Magner
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Clare Foran Mike Magner
Sept. 10, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

Lisa Jack­son was back be­fore a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee Tues­day, sev­en months after end­ing a news­worthy four-year stint as head of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency. But it wasn’t the en­vir­on­ment that mem­bers of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee wanted to hear about. Rather, it was Jack­son’s e-mail habits.

On a day when the pre­dom­in­ant ques­tion on Cap­it­ol Hill was how the United States should re­spond to the use of chem­ic­al weapons in Syr­ia, com­mit­tee Chair­man Dar­rell Issa, R-Cal­if., and some of his col­leagues grilled Jack­son on wheth­er e-mails she sent to a friend and lob­by­ist in 2009 should have gone out on her per­son­al or her gov­ern­ment ac­count.

Jack­son, 51, has mostly stayed out of the spot­light since step­ping down from EPA in Feb­ru­ary and leav­ing be­hind the hot-but­ton is­sues of cli­mate change, oil and gas drilling, air and wa­ter pol­lu­tion, and how to grow the eco­nomy without harm­ing the en­vir­on­ment.

Three months after her de­par­ture, she was named vice pres­id­ent for en­vir­on­ment­al ini­ti­at­ives in the Wash­ing­ton of­fice of Apple, but so far Jack­son has de­clined in­ter­views about what she is do­ing for the Cali­for­nia-based tech­no­logy gi­ant.

Asked by Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily after Tues­day’s hear­ing if she was work­ing on any spe­cif­ic pro­jects, Jack­son smiled and said, “I am, but we’re not ready to talk about most of them. You know Apple’s the most in­nov­at­ive com­pany in the world, and it’s really won­der­ful to be able to be there and work on in­nov­at­ive solu­tions to keep our earth clean and stew­ard our nat­ur­al re­sources.”

Oth­er than that, the only news about Jack­son since she left EPA has been an an­nounce­ment by Tu­lane Uni­versity, Jack­son’s alma ma­ter, that she was join­ing the board of the New Or­leans school in Au­gust. “To be able to serve the uni­versity I love in the city I love is a re­mark­able new phase in my life’s jour­ney,” Jack­son said in a state­ment re­leased by Tu­lane.

Jack­son was born in Phil­adelphia and raised in New Or­leans, and after gradu­at­ing with a de­gree in chem­ic­al en­gin­eer­ing from Tu­lane she went on to get a mas­ter’s in the field from Prin­ceton Uni­versity. She then spent 16 years as an en­gin­eer at EPA, mostly in New York City, be­fore join­ing the New Jer­sey De­part­ment of En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion in 2002 to work on en­vir­on­ment­al com­pli­ance and en­force­ment as well as land-use man­age­ment.

She be­came head of the DEP in 2006 un­der then-Gov. Jon Corz­ine, and also served as Corz­ine’s chief of staff be­fore Pres­id­ent-elect Obama tapped her for EPA ad­min­is­trat­or in 2008. Jack­son be­came the first Afric­an-Amer­ic­an to lead the agency and guided it through some troubled times: re­spond­ing to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico and mov­ing for­ward on en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions deemed “job-killing” by many Re­pub­lic­ans.

Be­cause of her high pro­file at EPA, Issa de­man­ded that Jack­son set aside her new low-pro­file job for a day and an­swer ques­tions about her use of a private e-mail ac­count while work­ing for the gov­ern­ment.

Jack­son gladly ac­cep­ted his in­vit­a­tion to testi­fy, say­ing she has been mind­ful throughout her ca­reer that the pub­lic’s busi­ness must be done in pub­lic. “I be­lieve my pub­lic-ser­vice eth­ic came from my fath­er — a Navy vet, and mail­man and ma­chin­ist for the U.S. Postal Ser­vice,” she told the House com­mit­tee.

Jack­son ex­plained that when she be­came EPA ad­min­is­trat­or in Janu­ary 2009, she was as­signed two e-mail ad­dresses end­ing in epa.gov. “One ad­dress was to be pub­lished on the EPA web­site and the in-box was man­aged by EPA staff,” she said. “A second ad­dress was shared with a more lim­ited num­ber of people and the in-box was man­aged primar­ily by me.”

When asked to de­cide on a name for the second ac­count, Jack­son said she sug­ges­ted ad­min­jack­son@epa.gov, but aides said that would be an in­vit­a­tion to a flooded in-box. So she looked for something less ob­vi­ous.

“My hus­band and sons were still liv­ing in East Wind­sor, New Jer­sey, and our fam­ily dog’s name is Ricky,” Jack­son said. “So, with tongue in cheek, I named my ac­count Wind­sor-dot-Richard at EPA-dot-gov.”

Issa and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sug­ges­ted at the hear­ing that Jack­son’s use of the wind­sor.richard@epa.gov ac­count to com­mu­nic­ate with at least one lob­by­ist ap­peared to be an at­tempt to keep the dis­cus­sion out of the gov­ern­ment re­cord. But Jack­son said she al­ways trans­ferred any e-mails that in­volved gov­ern­ment busi­ness to her main EPA ac­count, as she did with the e-mails from her friends whenev­er they got in­to EPA af­fairs.

“I can’t sep­ar­ate know­ing some­body in this city…. They have jobs, people have jobs and lives,” she said.

“Well, I apo­lo­gize, but that was what the [Jack] Ab­ramoff scan­dal was about … is that people said, “˜We were friends,’ when in fact he was a lob­by­ist,” Issa replied.

In the end, Dav­id Fer­riero, the arch­iv­ist of the United States, test­i­fied that it is not a vi­ol­a­tion of any laws for gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to use a sec­ond­ary e-mail ad­dress. Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form rank­ing mem­ber Eli­jah Cum­mings, D-Md., also poin­ted out that “no fed­er­al law pro­hib­its the use of per­son­al e-mail for of­fi­cial busi­ness so long as those e-mails are prop­erly pre­served.”

And Jack­son, pre­sum­ably, re­turned to her job at Apple, once again out of the lime­light.

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