EPA chief: ‘All the scare tactics are on the side of lobbyists’

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is adopting a populist stance as she pushes ahead with first-time greenhouse gas rules, charging that oil and coal lobbyists are using “scare tactics” to protect their financial interests at the public’s expense.

“I would say to the American people that we hear you, that poll after poll shows that clean energy is popular, that the American people understand the need for us to transition to clean energy,” Jackson said in an exclusive interview with The Hill Thursday at EPA headquarters.

“They want to know that government is working to protect them and their futures, not any individualized special interests, not one sector, not the petroleum sector, not coal, but the American people and their jobs and their future,” she said.

A transcript and video excerpts of the interview will be posted soon on The Hill’s website.

Jackson’s comments come as an array of industry groups are challenging EPA’s authority to regulate heat-trapping emissions in court.

Groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association are also pushing legislation to delay the mandates that could face a Senate vote this year.

Jackson lambasted “doomsday” claims about the economic costs of curbing emissions, and efforts to “confuse people” on climate science.

“There are people who would like to defend the status quo because they make money that way. I don’t think it is anyone in Congress. I think it is lobbying groups who represent big interests and the move to clean energy is something that they would prefer not to see this country undertake,” Jackson said.

Jackson, in the interview and an op-ed in The Hill, is also stressing that climate rules would join a long list of Clean Air Act programs that have provided gains that far outweigh the costs. She noted that Clean Air Act programs have led to massive health benefits and show $40 in total benefits for every $1 invested.

“Industry lobbyists have a long and storied history of doomsday scenarios about what EPA actions would mean across the countryside. They have never proven true,” Jackson said, later adding, “All the history and the facts are on the side that this can be done. All the scare tactics are on the side of industry lobbyists.”

Rules limiting emissions from power plants and other large sources are slated to begin taking effect early in 2011, and Jackson spoke ahead of a likely Senate battle on climate rules. Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDonald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary McConnell cements his standing in GOP history MORE (D-Nev.) has pledged to allow a vote on Sen. Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term MORE’s (D-W.Va.) bill to delay EPA rules for two years.

“We work with the senators individually, as we can, to give them information. I don’t lobby senators per se on it. The administration has made clear from the White House that that isn’t something that we think would be productive at this point,” Jackson said of Rockefeller’s plan.

The Obama administration’s climate agenda suffered a big setback when broad global warming and energy legislation collapsed in the Senate this summer after narrow House passage in 2009. The GOP is expected to make big gains in the upcoming elections, further dampening prospects for climate legislation.

recently said that “piecemeal” climate legislation would be more viable in the future, although any attempts to legislate emissions limits will face major challenges.

“I think that the White House and the administration will be speaking over time for what happens now that we have sort of lost the opportunity, at least for right now, on comprehensive legislation,” Jackson said.

“What I have to do in the meantime is just continue with what I said we would do here, which is our job, which is take the steps under the Clean Air Act that are required by law, but do it in a way that uses common sense, that is step-by-step and rational, to get results,” she added.