Remember those national carbon trading bills that were moving through Congress as Barack Obama was setting up shop in the Oval Office? The head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency says: Don’t hold your breath.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s appearance on KQED’s Forum Wednesday seemed to confirm that her boss is picking his battles carefully. “What America’s talking about right now is jobs,” Jackson told host Michael Krasny. “Green jobs are what we have to be working on with everything we do.” The message seemed to be that environmental goals will take a back seat, unless they can be linked to job creation.

Krasny walked Jackson through the checklist of recent controversies, such as today’s decision to postpone greenhouse gas regulations beyond a September 30 deadline, and to let stand Bush-era standards for ozone pollution.

Jackson wriggled out of directly addressing the backlash against President Obama’s green jobs initiative since the collapse and federal investigation of Fremont-based Solyndra Corp. Jackson said only that this is “an important moment,” and that “We have to double down” on clean energy commitments, rather than retreat in the wake of one corporate calamity. “It’s more important than ever that instead of backing away, we continue to insist on investment by our elected officials in that sector of our economy.”

As to the proposed tar sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, a project that has prompted demonstrations outside the White House, Jackson said no decision has been made but that “certainly people are hearing” the public outcry against the idea.

And speaking of outcries, on the recent controversial decision by the President not to tighten ozone standards:

“It was a tough call. I respect it. We have a huge green agenda. It is one decision.”

Asked if a national cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions is “dead:”

“My hope is that reason will return and that–in a reasonable way–business will eventually become the biggest advocate for a mkt-based program. It’s certainly not gonna happen in the near future.”

Jackson said that right now, controlling emissions of mercury from power plants is “Job One.” So what’s “Job Two?” Implementing cross-state air pollution rules, said Jackson.

On Republican claims that her agency is a job-killing machine: “That’s nonsense. It just is.”

EPA Chief: Cap & Trade a Distant Hope 15 September,2011Craig Miller


Craig Miller

Craig is KQED’s science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to his current position, he launched and led the station’s award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

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