Muckraker: Grist on Politics

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a memo on Friday highlighting her top priorities for the agency and the philosophy she will use in setting policy.

“Science must be the backbone for EPA programs. The public health and environmental laws that Congress has enacted depend on rigorous adherence to the best available science,” she wrote. “The President believes that when EPA addresses scientific issues, it should rely on the expert judgment of the Agency’s career scientists and independent advisors. When scientific judgments are suppressed, misrepresented or distorted by political agendas, Americans can lose faith in their government to provide strong public health and environmental protection.”

Jackson took a specific swipe at the Bush administration’s policies in this regard. “The laws that Congress has written and directed EPA to implement leave room for policy judgments,” she said. “However, policy decisions should not be disguised as scientific findings. I pledge that I will not compromise the integrity of EPA’s experts in order to advance a preference for a particular regulatory outcome.”

She also outlined her top five issues:

• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The President has pledged to make responding to the threat of climate change a high priority of his administration. He is confident that we can transition to a low-carbon economy while creating jobs and making the investment we need to emerge from the current recession and create a strong foundation for future growth. I share this vision. EPA will stand ready to help Congress craft strong, science-based climate legislation that fulfills the vision of the President. As Congress does its work, we will move ahead to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing EPA’s obligation to address climate change under the Clean Air Act.

• Improving air quality. The nation continues to face serious air pollution challenges, with large areas of the country out of attainment with air-quality standards and many communities facing the threat of toxic air pollution. Science shows that people’s health is at stake. We will plug the gaps in our regulatory system as science and the law demand.

• Managing chemical risks. More than 30 years after Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act, it is clear that we are not doing an adequate job of assessing and managing the risks of chemicals in consumer products, the workplace and the environment. It is now time to revise and strengthen EPA’s chemicals management and risk assessment programs.

• Cleaning up hazardous-waste sites. EPA will strive to accelerate the pace of cleanup at the hundreds of contaminated sites across the country. Turning these blighted properties into productive parcels and reducing threats to human health and the environment means jobs and an investment in our land, our communities and our people.

• Protecting America’s water. EPA will intensify our work to restore and protect the quality of the nation’s streams, rivers, lakes, bays, oceans and aquifers. The Agency will make robust use of our authority to restore threatened treasures such as the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, to address our neglected urban rivers, to strengthen drinking-water safety programs, and to reduce pollution from non-point and industrial dischargers.