As the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson is directly involved in regulating and advising eco-friendly initiatives in President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In addition to safeguarding air, water, and land, Jackson is responsible for more than $7 billion in funding from the Recovery Act to invest in environmental protection and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.
BlackEnterprise.com: As the EPA’s first African-American administrator do you feel it’s important for more African-Americans to get involved with the environment and embrace the clean energy future? Do you think it’s a bit of a struggle with African-Americans to get on board with that?
Lisa Jackson: I think energy is easier for people to embrace, for African-Americans to embrace, than the environment. We falsely kind of believe that the environment is something out there that we didn’t worry about too much and I think that the environmental justice movement should be credited for making it clear that anything that impacts the environment tends to impact people of color potentially more and certainly low income people.
The president is meeting a great need. We have to follow him and realize that he is calling on Americans to embrace a completely different future. It will be a new economy and the best thing about a new economy is that it wipes the board clean and away and allows us an opportunity to get in at the ground floor and we should not miss that opportunity.
Air quality and protecting America’s water are some of your top priorities. Why?
Literally we need clean air to live, to be healthy, and we’ve had a series of setbacks in court decisions what I think are regulations that were either on the wrong track with respect to air. Although it has gotten cleaner, we’ve sort of stalled in our efforts to fight pollution as we move forward.
On water quality — we take water for granted. So we at the EPA, we really have only one mission, and that is to protect the environment. And there are only three big parts of the environment: air, water and the land. If the EPA is not out there doing its job for the American people, then they would have the right to question why we are here at all. We have to get to work.
How do you plan to attract and encourage small business owners and corporations to get on board with the green economy? What type of incentives will there be?
The Recovery Act will include both outright grants, and it will include loans and loan guarantees, and tax credits all in those clean energy and renewable energy fields.
We’re already seeing political and local leaders be very thoughtful about ways to really be transformative. Obviously the job part of it we touch, but we’re not leading. The White House has hired Van Jones from Green for All [to be the special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the Council on Environmental Quality].