The Jackson Damage
The economic harm the EPA chief wrought.
WSJ.COM Op-Ed 12/28/12: More than four years after the 2008 panic, the U.S. economy still hasn't rebounded to its normal potential growth trend. So the legacy of one of the main culprits—Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency, who announced Thursday she is resigning—must include the millions of Americans who can't find a job or haven't seen their incomes rise.
The EPA chief is among President Obama's most abusive and reckless regulators—his repressed green id. Over her four years, Ms. Jackson inflicted an unprecedented surge of new rules on private business, including the most expensive ever in the history of government by several orders of magnitude. A "major" regulation used to be defined as imposing costs of $100 million or more. The EPA now routinely issues multibillion-dollar rules with little more than a press release.
Ms. Jackson most notably cranked up clean-air regulation that will force a third or even as much as half of the U.S. coal-fired electric fleet out of existence. She also rewrote laws to declare carbon emissions a "dangerous pollutant" even though the laws were written in the 1970s. Along with other rules, including auto efficiency standards, she started a re-engineering of the U.S. energy system, without so much as a Congressional vote.
Ms. Jackson used her discretion to make these rules as aggressive and punitive as possible, even if they couldn't survive legal scrutiny. To the extent this surge contributed to business uncertainty and stole dollars otherwise available for private investment, Ms. Jackson's agenda explains why the economic recovery and job creation are weaker than they ought to be by historical standards. Take the champagne off ice.
Nothing like this was expected out of Ms. Jackson, a New Jersey political functionary under then-Governor Jon Corzine. She turned out to be a master power-politics operator. Her most consequential victory was steamrolling Cass Sunstein at the White House regulatory review office.
Mr. Sunstein was a promoter of sensible regulation only when the benefits justified the costs, and he often opposed Ms. Jackson's methods internally. When he succeeded in persuading the President to yank a purely discretionary EPA rule on ozone in 2011, Ms. Jackson went around town threatening to resign and make trouble for Mr. Obama among his environmental base.
Her authority was never challenged seriously again. The EPA now routinely rigs its estimates to exaggerate benefits—which all of a sudden include such shapeless concepts as racial justice and economic redistribution—and underestimate costs, when it admits costs exist at all.
Astonishingly enough, the green lobby regards Ms. Jackson's term as something of a disappointment, because she didn't do enough on the supposedly humanity-defining problem of global warming and compromised too often. We'd hate to see who they think should continue the revolution she started.
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