In her first public appearance as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson told a standing-room-only crowd on Jan. 30 that the EPA would work to regain their trust.
“I understand that trust—especially for the EPA these days—is hard earned,” Jackson said. “I hope that when we’re done, we won’t be operating simply from a position of trust, but one of respect.”
Jackson was the keynote speaker at “Advancing Climate Justice: Transforming the Economy, Public Health and Our Environment,” a two-day conference held at Pope Auditorium and sponsored by Fordham Law School’s Stein Center for Law & Ethics.
Jackson, former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, told attendees that President Barack Obama shares their sense of purpose, and that his positions will cast him as an environmental president.
“As long as he’s committed to the idea that you do not have to choose between environmental protection and the economy, we have a leg up on past administrations,” she said. “We have an answer for people who want to scare us into backing off strong environmental protections.
“In New Jersey, I was fond of saying that every time I saw a plant with emissions controls, or a Superfund cleanup, those were good-paying jobs,” Jackson said.
The conference, which was organized by West Harlem-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice, also drew New York Congressman Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rangel challenged community organizations to use their collective power to push for change from the bottom up.
“The most important thing is for us to provide resources to grassroots organizations,” he said.
Rangel said that organizations such as WE ACT have the power to go into low-income areas and convince residents that environmental concerns should matter to them. That, in turn, creates a wellspring of support that federal lawmakers can use to fight for the environment.
“We have an opportunity to say that the people on the lowest part of the economic ladder can come to the table, not to be educated, but to see what they can do to save their communities, to save their country, and to a large extent, to save the world,” he said.