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Lisa J. Jackson, the current EPA Administrator, was cool, collected, and low key when she appeared on the Jon Stewart show this week. I appreciated her demeanor. As the Administrator for an agency under attack, she has to be credible, authoritative and solid. She has to make folks feel that the person minding the E.P.A. store is dedicated, proactive and results-oriented. I felt that she was an effective counter-point to the overly-reactionary and inflammatory behavior of the opposition and perhaps, her predecessor. Yes, the Republicans. She didn’t want to say it, but Stewart did and I will, too.
I like that she spoke in a low key tone of confidence and assurance. She laughed easily and seemed comfortable with Stewart’s banter. Not only did she exude credibility and truthfulness, but rock solid on the facts. When Stewart presented the question about the cost of environmental clean-up, she let him know that she wasn’t just relying on estimations and projections (even though they demonstrate that over the last forty years air and water quality improved while our GDP was up 207%), but she could also point to companies (half the power plants in the country) who have already complied with mercury standards and are doing just fine economically. That’s a big deal. She didn’t mention that these plants were coal-fired power plants, but she made it crystal clear that the non-compliant plants are responsible for mercury poisoning and all of the illness and premature deaths associated with it.
I think some of the most important statements she made was that the EPA is not a liberal extremist invention, but a 40-year-old agency established under a Republican president; that the protections we are working so hard to uphold had unanimous bipartisan support; and that because the EPA is doing its job and because its efforts are working, people have become complacent about assuring its continued success and effectiveness. Judging from the audience’s thunderous response, these points were well taken.
It seemed to me that Jackson made the decision not to use The Jon Stewart Show as a venue to overtly recruit the public. She, instead, took the opportunity to dispel perceptions of the EPA as a scary, overbearing agency, and effectively gave the EPA a friendly, accessible face and a voice of reason, credibility and assurance. One of her stated goals is to renew the public’s trust in the EPA. In my part of the world, the EPA is the big government bad guy making life miserable for the energy sector. From where I stand, a shift in perception is crucial.
Jackson is clearly on a mission. She seems to be seizing every opportunity to spread her message and crush the untruths, rhetoric and propaganda spewing forth from the other side. In furtherance of this, she seems to be everywhere. When she is not testifying before Congress—a task she says she has been called to do more than any other cabinet member– she speaks everywhere, she blogs , contributes articles , is interviewed and attends conferences. And She is on Facebook and Twitter. I think she is true to her goals and quite effective in all of these venues. The Jon Stewart Show is just one stop along her way and I think she worked it just right!
Cross posted at Mom’s Clean Air Force!