For most, the beginning of a new year causes reflection and a general analysis of the year that has passed. On top of the reflection of 2012 and the environment is the resignation of Lisa P. Jackson, President Barack Obama’s appointed EPA Administrator. Her four years of sitting at the head of the EPA was controversial at best. She had highs and lows, however those four years were spent primarily in battle over her authority. There were no reasons given for her resignation, she has been quoted as saying, “ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference”.
The New York Post recently suggested that her resignation was linked to the new position President Obama is taking on the Keystone project. The installation of a pipeline that would stretch 1700 miles from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico was strongly opposed by the President in January of 2012. The President stated, “Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” and asked that the application for international construction be denied. Now, it appears that the President may have changed his mind and be supporting the project.
Lisa Jackson, a chemical engineer by training, has been a part of the EPA for more than two decades. She was the first black American EPA Administrator. Her push during her administration was to reduce greenhouse emissions. During her four years she was affective in creating the first ever standard for harmful mercury pollution, and helped to establish historic fuel economy standards that could slash carbon pollution. Throughout her time, however she faced considerable opposition from certain members in Congress. Even Presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated that she should be fired during his campaigning. No matter the cause for her departure, Lisa P. Jackson will be stepping down soon after President Obama’s second inaugural speech.
The controversy over Ms. Jackson’s resignation just shows the close tie between the environment and politics. Both Republicans and Democrats have strong views on the caring of our planet. By the end of 2012 thousand of hours had been spent looking over political sound bites and speeches by environmentally minded Americans because of the presidential election. The fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling also have a direct impact on funding that will be available for green projects and the preservation of our nation’s natural resources.
Politics brings us to another of 2012’s hot topics on the environment, ‘fracking’. Fracking, or Hydraulic Fracturing, extracts natural gas and crude oil from shale formations. The process has been around for decades. There is a push for renewable fuels however there is little that can compare to the fossil fuels. America’s abundance of natural gas seems like a slam dunk on the road to energy independence and a rebirth of America’s economic muscle. There is a strong gap between the pro’s and con’s of the process of fracking. When done correctly fracking protects air and water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health have yet to provide unequivocal evidence of the dangers of fracking to humans or the environment. The few cases where contaminated water was found, it was from spills and leakages at the rig on the surface not from the miles of deep drilling.
Civic groups and lobbyists have taken great effort to bring attention to fracking. Fears of groundwater contamination and even noise pollution have rallied the opposition. Regulations and the added expenses have turned up the heat with the oil and gas companies. Both sides of the argument are guilty of spinning studies to support their positions. While Regulations can help to monitor and prevent some of those who would be reckless, the environmentalists do not have much faith in those regulations. Oil and gas companies are responsible for shifting the burden of proof away from the industry and towards scientists and academia.
Here in Colorado, state regulators have implemented progressive regulations and the requirement for the disclosure of all fracking chemicals. Colorado citizens have praised the states efforts to control \the effects of fracking. However, we still lack independent research and science to determine if and how the environment is directly impacted as a direct result of fracking. Regulations need to be in place to set standards to ensure that proper safety measures are taken to prevent spills and leakage. Whether regulated or not, reaching one of the nations largest natural resources should be a strong asset for our economy and for the high demand for independence.
Climate Change, Water Quality and Consumption, as well as Biofuel Technology have hit the top of the 2012 list. Climate change or global warming requires funding and technological advancement to detect environmental abnormalities. The quality of global drinking water and laws governing ballast discharge is at the top of the list for many environmentalists. Then as usual independence of America from foreign oil and developing earth friendly alternatives is front and center of American politics. Monies for research and investment into smaller companies who are working to advance biofuel, battery, electric and solar power will continue to be discussed in the year to come as we face touch economic conditions.
One thing for sure, is for real environmental change to occur, Americans are going to have to start looking at themselves. The United States is one of the largest consumers of plastic in the world. While progress is made, the mindset of the individual still is in need of change. There is an ‘everything is disposable’ and ‘get it fast’ attitude that must be changed to make the biggest impact. Recycling efforts have done little to change that mindset.
As we move into 2013 and the start of the new four year term of President Obama, the environment will continue to receive a lot of attention by politicians and civic groups. For sure education and awareness will continue to have a strong part of working to improve our environment.