Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lisa (Lightning Rod) Jackson has New Jersey enviros crackling


As New Jersey's former Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner Lisa Jackson awaits congressional hearings on her nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the media debate over her qualifications for the job has been renewed--this time by the respected environmental blog, Grist.

In a post entitled, The Lisa of Our Concern, Grist's D.C.-based political reporter, Kate Sheppard, yesterday revisited the arguments pro and con Jackson's nomination, most which previously appeared in our Dec. 15, 2008 post Daily Kos weighs in on Jackson-EPA debate.

Jackson's supporters in New Jersey include the state's largest and most politically active environmental organizations, i.e. the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the New Jersey Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey.

Her principal public detractors are Robert Spiegel, pictured at left, the executive director of the Edison Wetlands Association, and Bill Wolfe who has made a career out of flogging the DEP since he left it's employ some years ago.

Wolfe, at right, authors a blog in the Star-Ledger's New Jersey Voices pages, and if his criticism of Jackson irritated the mainline environmental groups before, they'll really be miffed today after reading him opine:

"I am a Jackson critic. But in judging the credibility of the Jackson praise, readers must consider how environmental leaders criticize Jackson policy privately, versus what they say publicly in the press."

Two more recent critics include another Star-Ledger blogger, John Bury, and Joe Morris, director of the environmental cleanup project at the Interfaith Community Organization, which Grist's Sheppard describes as "a small group that has worked on environmental-justice and remediation efforts."

Criticism from small groups considered "outsiders" by the state's big enviro organizations isn't likely to cause any serious damage to Jackson's nomination, but it must be a source of embarrassment to her and to Governor Corzine.


NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittle, who is accustomed to being the last word on environmental issues in the state media, sounded more perturbed than anyone else in the Grist post when he said:

"A lot of these people who are saying these negative things don't even work in Trenton and they don't even work on these issues. That's what I find ... very aggravating."

Sheppard characterized the split as "between those who work on energy and climate policy in the state's capital and those who work on toxic cleanups at the local level."

That's an accurate assessment. But it doesn't make the public spat any less unusual--even in New Jersey where political infighting is a major league spectator sport.

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