TheGrio’s 100: Lisa Jackson, Washington’s lead environmentalist

TheGrio's 100 - Jackson's leadership comes at a pivotal time for the EPA in the nation's policymaking...

It’s been said that the Obama administration might be the nation’s greenest administration yet. Many of the leaders at the federal level of that green administration are black, including Lisa Jackson, the first African-American administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Jackson’s leadership comes at a pivotal time for the EPA in the nation’s policymaking. The White House and Congress have taken the threat of climate change seriously, far more than any federal administration before, and have taken steps to make reducing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide mandatory.

The April 2, 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA case before the Supreme Court included a ruling that the EPA must make a determination whether carbon dioxide is indeed a harmful threat to health and public welfare.

On December 7, the same day that the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen began, Jackson made that exact determination for the EPA. Given that endangerment finding, and under the Supreme Court decision, the EPA is authorized to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

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Jackson has indicated that rather than having the EPA impose those regulations, she supports Congress in their process of coming up with climate change policy. However, if Congress fails to do that, the power is in her hands to have the EPA take care of the problem itself.

This would invite a torrent of lawsuits, mostly from businesses and industries that don’t want their emissions governed, but at the end of the day, Jackson and the EPA have the Supreme Court mandate to add teeth to their response.

If neither the EPA nor Congress responds, it could mean frequent and intense weather disasters for the U.S. and the world – Hurricane Katrina-scale disasters that Jackson, who grew up in New Orleans, personally wants to avoid.

Click here to check out the other Grio 100 history-makers in science.