Ex-climate czar to EPA chief Jackson: Please don’t go

Browner wouldn’t bite when asked for recommendations on a new EPA head if Jackson joins other some top officials, such as the Treasury and State Department chiefs, in heading for the exits.

“I think she should stay, that’s my recommendation,” Browner said.

Jackson’s EPA has completed or proposed a number of major rules, including final standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics and draft standards for carbon emissions from new power plants.

But Jackson also suffered a stinging defeat in 2011 when Obama overrode EPA and delayed new ozone standards.

Jackson's tenure has also been marked by constant battles with Capitol Hill Republicans that have sought to scuttle, weaken or delay rules such as power plant air toxics standards, separate standards for pollutants that cross state lines and EPA carbon regulations.

Browner took aim at Republicans who dispute global warming or downplay the risks. The overwhelming majority of scientists say the planet is warming up and that human actions, notably the burning of fossil fuels, are a major driver.

“Unfortunately, right now, a majority in our House of Representatives appears to not even think the problem is real. It is sort of stunning to me because I have never seen the breadth of scientific consensus on an environmental issue like there is on this,” she said.

Former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas), who appeared at the same forum Wednesday, said Republicans support environmental protection, but differ with EPA’s push to regulate carbon emissions.

“Republicans support a strong EPA. We support strong environmental standards and we want those standards enforced,” he said. “Where we have a difference of opinion is in what sometimes needs to be regulated and how.”

Barton is among the most vocal climate skeptics in Congress.

“I accept that climate change is happening. What I don’t accept is that something that we have done as humankind with the creation of CO2 is a causal agent of that change,” Barton said.