Long before Lisa Jackson was confirmed as President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator in 2009, she earned mixed reviews for her work as New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner. Known in many circles for her alarmist views on several environmental issues, then-Commissioner Jackson’s aggressive approach often times placed her at odds with even like-minded environmentalists.
Despite urging from the EPA and others to focus her agency’s attention on cleaning up New Jersey’s thousands of toxic waste sites, Jackson chose instead to zealously focus on leading her state down the path to cap-and-trade energy taxes. For much of her tenure, Jackson relied on the typical environmental scare tactics to promote New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is—pure and simple—a regional cap-and-trade program that applies to electricity production in the 10 states it covers.
Jackson was nominated to head the EPA largely because of her success selling the RGGI cap-and-trade program to New Jersey policymakers. In fact, Jackson bragged that RGGI was the “first CO2 cap and trade program in US.” Jackson’s work selling RGGI in New Jersey raised her profile among national environmental groups and in Washington, DC.
Largely due to Jackson’s myopic focus on getting New Jersey to participate in a cap-and-trade scheme, the state adopted RGGI in 2008. But Jackson wasn’t satisfied with just dragging New Jersey into the regional program. From very early on, Jackson’s sights were always set on pressuring the federal government to do the same thing. While promoting cap-and-trade in Trenton, Jackson said, “This is about brave steps, just by having the opportunity to move forward on [RGGI], we will continue to put pressure on the federal government to act [on cap and trade].”
Environmentalists recognized how important RGGI and Jackson’s efforts were to making a national cap-and-trade program a reality. Derek K. Murrow, director of policy analysis for Environment Northeast, an environmental think tank that helped design the initiative said, “RGGI sets a good framework for a federal [cap-and-trade] program.”
In fact, the way RGGI is structured is designed to encourage federal action on a cap-and-trade program and even to pressure utilities into preferring a national approach. Jackson worked to ensure that RGGI would roll naturally into a national program after it had served as a role model for a federal approach.
When Obama nominated Jackson to be EPA Administrator him—and the radical environmentalists behind his cap-and-trade scheme—knew what they were getting. In fact, most environmentalists looked past Jackson’s failings as commissioner in New Jersey because they knew her nomination brought the US one step closer to a national cap-and-trade energy tax. Despite not yet getting cap-and-trade through Congress, Jackson remains committed to making RGGI a reality for the entire nation.
Unfortunately, in her post as EPA Administrator, Jackson is in a powerful position to accomplish her longstanding goal.