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EPA boss exits without applause

Published on January 4, 2013 3:01AM

Last changed on February 1, 2013 9:30AM

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

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We can't think of any member of the Obama administration who has been more reviled by the farm community than Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Jackson announced last week that she will leave her post sometime after the president's State of the Union address later this month. With the exception of a laudatory statement from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, agriculture leaders have largely been silent in the wake of the announcement.

That's a departure from much of her four-year tenure, when Jackson and her agency were regularly the focus of a great deal of discussion anywhere farmers and ranchers gathered.

Environmentalists expected the Obama EPA to be far more proactive than under the previous administration. While many in that camp didn't think Jackson went far enough, she succeeded in heaping on additional regulations that cost the automobile and energy industries billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Early on farmers and ranchers were worried about the potential impacts of greenhouse gas regulations that were reportedly considered. There was also concern the EPA would clamp down on farm dust as it conducted its regular review of fine and course particulate matter as required by the Clean Air Act. There were also reports that the agency sought to broaden the definition of "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act, and to extend its regulatory reach.

Jackson has long maintained that she was the victim of "myths" and misconceptions concerning ag-related proposals circulating within EPA headquarters. She has hinted at a right-wing lobbying effort that has whipped up rural hysteria and profited by campaigning against regulation that has never been proposed.

Whether these were myths, misconceptions or policy trial balloons, we can only say that they did not come to pass. And for that we are inclined to credit the uproar from the farm community rather than any reasoned restraint on the part of Jackson and the EPA.

Jackson and her charges did little to encourage the trust of those industries they regulated.

While it was considering its dust regulations, the EPA conducted a series of closed-door meetings with selected stakeholders. It then refused to release the identity of the stakeholders or a record of what was discussed.

Jackson and the EPA have been sued over the use of alias email accounts, a practice plaintiffs say allowed administrators to conduct official business in secret. The EPA has since claimed it has long given administrators two government email accounts -- one public, one for internal communications. It has not explained why Jackson's internal account bore the alias "Richard Windsor" rather than a moniker identifiable as the administrator.

In April, a video from 2010 was posted online in which EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz compared his aggressive enforcement policy against oil and gas companies to the ancient Roman practice of using random crucifixions to pacify conquered villages.

But now we won't have Lisa Jackson to kick around anymore. We wish her well in her future endeavors, and advise the farm and ranch community to keep an equally close eye on her successor.


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