I met with Lisa Jackson last week, and I was once again struck by how forcefully she fights to protect the health of American families. As the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, she is helping make our air safer to breathe and getting toxins out of everyday products.
Still, it has become commonplace these days to bash the government and to question the service of public officials—particularly Jackson.
Yet attacking Jackson is like attacking our doctors and pediatricians. Congress charged the EPA with protecting our health, and like medical professionals, Jackson and her colleagues study the science and determine affordable ways to keep people healthy—instead of treating them after they get sick.
And let’s face it: If the EPA doesn’t stand up for our health and set limits on the pollution that causes asthma, heart disease, and cancer, who will?
Who else do you think is protecting you? Do you think BP is protecting you? Do you think the American Petroleum Institute is protecting you?
Oil companies are protecting their own interests—that’s fine, that’s what businesses do. But our interests need to be represented as well.
Imagine if an oil refinery or a power plant was pumping toxic pollutants into your body—and you are left paying the medical bills and taking your child to the ER when she has an asthma attack.
It is extremely difficult for an individual to demand that a major polluter clean up its act. But Congress gave the EPA the authority to do just that. And Jackson uses this authority on behalf of you and me and our children.
Jackson first got into environmental protection because she saw it as a form of people protection. She grew up in New Orleans, the daughter of a postman, and studied chemical engineering at Tulane. During her graduate work, she realized that her training as an engineer could be used to clean up hazardous waste—or better yet, stop it from occurring in the first place.
But Jackson isn’t only an engineer or a public official; she is also the mother of two sons. She wants to keep her children safe from illness just like I do and just like every other parent does.
That’s why Jackson tells industry: you can conduct your business, but you have to do it without giving our kids asthma or giving our parents respiratory disease.
Some lawmakers think that makes Jackson an example of government overreach. I think that means she is doing the job Congress gave her. And the job we need her to do – because no one else can or will do it.