For as long as Encamp helps businesses manage environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulations and EHS compliance reporting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be central to what we do.
Therefore in honoring Black History Month, it’s only appropriate that we recognize Lisa Perez Jackson, the first Black administrator in the EPA’s history. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in December 1970. Jackson led the agency from 2009 to 2013.
According to her profile on the EPA’s online archives, Jackson was born in 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but was raised as a “proud resident” of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Jackson also holds a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University. In 2012, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Tulane and was also later awarded an honorary law degree from Pace Law School.
Storied career in the environmental sector
Soon after joining the EPA as a staff-level engineer in 1987, Jackson moved to the EPA’s regional office in New York City, where she spent the majority of her 16-year EPA career. In 2002, she joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as the assistant commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement and assistant commissioner for Land Use Management. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine appointed Jackson the state’s commissioner of Environmental Protection in 2006. She also briefly served as Corzine’s chief of staff in late 2008.
In December 2008, president-elect Barack Obama nominated Jackson to serve as administrator of the EPA. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 23, 2009 and took office that same day.
Significant accomplishments at the EPA
During her 4-year tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson focused on seven priorities for the agency’s future. Those priorities included addressing climate change; improving air quality; cleaning up communities; protecting America’s waters; assuring the safety of chemicals; expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and building stronger state and tribal partnerships.
Now several years later, Jackson’s emphasis on chemical safety, cleaner communities, and state and tribal partnerships while she led the EPA continues to impact the EHS compliance and reporting efforts of businesses throughout the U.S.
In December 2009, Jackson announced an endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, setting the stage for more aggressive EPA action on climate change. Under her leadership, the agency issued clean air standards designed to reduce emissions from large facilities without burdening small businesses, amending the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to set stricter smog pollution limits as part of the EPA’s clean air initiatives.
Jackson similarly outlined the principles to modernize the country’s then 30-year-old chemical management laws, many of which were updated and remain in effect for EHS compliance reporting today. Also under Jackson, the EPA introduced its clean cars program in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and the auto industry to make American vehicles more fuel-efficient.
Jackson additionally authorized the recognition of carbon dioxide as a public health threat, granting the EPA authority to set new regulations regarding CO2 emissions.
In response to the economic downturn in 2009, Jackson led the EPA’s efforts to invest in job-creating environmental protection projects across the country. The investments led to cleaner communities that were in the race to attract jobs at the time, while also encouraging the development and use of innovative environmental technologies.
As the first Black person to serve as EPA administrator, Jackson further made it a priority to expand outreach to communities that were historically under-represented in environmental action. The EPA stepped up protection for vulnerable groups including children, the elderly, and low-income communities that were particularly susceptible to environmental and health threats.
While she was the EPA’s administrator, Jackson was named one of Newsweek’s “Most Important People in 2010,” and was featured on Time magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” She also was listed in Essence magazine’s “40 Women Who Have Influenced the World,” and profiled in Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine for her work to protect the nation’s air, water and land from pollution that threatens human health.
In December 2012, Jackson announced she would step down as EPA administrator, ultimately leaving the agency in February 2013.
Today, Jackson is Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. In that role, she oversees Apple’s efforts to minimize its impact on the environment by addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials and inventing new ways to conserve precious resources. She is also responsible for Apple’s education policy programs, its product accessibility work, and its worldwide government affairs function.
She additionally serves on the boards of Tulane University, SF Film, Conservation International, and Emily’s List.
For Black History Month and beyond, Lisa Perez Jackson remains one of the most influential Black leaders in the environmental sector.