EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson still offers some hope for a clean future. This from the Hill “Politico”. 10/27/2011 EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: Keystone conversation is ‘awesome’ By Erica Martinson: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Thursday took an artful dodge when asked by a student activist about the Keystone XL pipeline, praising civic engagement and promising that the EPA will “do its job.” “People ask me all the time, ‘What about this whole issue?’ To me, it’s awesome; it’s awesome that we’re having this conversation in this country. This should be a moment where we’re having a big conversation,” she said.
But, Jackson added a cautionary note: “This is a pipeline that cuts our country literally in half.” Jackson addressed a Sierra Club meeting of national campus activists, most of whom are focused on shutting down coal-fired power plants on their campuses and on other similar issues.
One student, Jarymar Arana from Texas — who plans to bring up the pipeline again this afternoon when the students visit the White House — thanked the administrator for its previous “robust review” of the pipeline and asked “if you will continue to stand up for the communities affected by Keystone XL.”
“Yes, that’s our job,” Jackson said, speaking of EPA’s obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to review environmental impact statements.
But, she noted, “Everyone, I think, knows here that the actual decision-makers are the State Department.”
Jackson said the EPA is almost finished with its final comments on the pipeline, but declined to tell reporters when they would be completed.
She noted President Barack Obama’s brief mention Wednesday of the controversy, telling the activists that “he’s certainly heard your voices and is very much aware of the concerns you have raised.”
Arana told POLITICO that Sierra Club and its student activists feel that EPA’s last comments filed on the Keystone XL pipeline essentially rejected the project, and they want to “build on that momentum and ask that they do it again.”
Arana is particularly concerned about family in Brownsville, Texas, near the Gulf Coast, where there may be increased demand for refineries once the pipeline is built, and said she and other activists are concerned about the disproportionate impact on the Hispanic community that could come from the pipeline.
Most of the students at the Sierra Club event at Howard University this morning were focused on coal.
Students at the event said that 17 student groups thus far have won campaigns to retire coal-fired power plants on campus and that last month students held more than 100 events nationwide asking for a transition off of coal at their schools.
Jackson used the event to warn students about congressional assaults on a slew of rules and defend the agency’s recent decisions. “We’re not going to use the current economic crisis to roll back the health and safety people have come to rely on for a decade. … It would be tragic if we took one step forward, and we end up taking four or five steps back, “she said.
About environmental laws, she added: “None of them are safe right now.”
“We will … continue to face vote after vote to knock these rules down,” Jackson said. “They’re threatening more votes … against the Clean Air Act. Against the Clean Water Act … of course now we hear that the EPA is the enemy.”
She called out an unnamed lawmaker in her speech, noting, “I read a really interesting headline today … an elected official, I won’t say which one, said he needs to protect coal ash from regulation. I thought — ‘I thought the job was to protect us from coal ash!’ One of the reason that we have regulations and standards was to protect we the people.”
It appears Jackson was referring to Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and a story in The Hill.
Jackson specifically defended the agency’s agreement with automakers to up standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2025, though she warned students, “There will be an effort to reverse it. … And it will probably be led by someone from California.” (Rep. Darrell Issa has been a leading critic of the deal.)
Jackson also spoke voraciously of the agency’s upcoming mercury and air toxics standards, due out Dec. 16 after environmental litigants recently granted a one-month extension.
One of the reasons it’s so important to meet the standards, Jackson told the students, is that there are many coal plants that are 40, 50, 60 years old. “We actually have one, I think, approaching 70 years old. And in their entire history … they’ve never found the time, or the reason, to clean up their act.”