EPA’s Jackson Urges Blacks Not to Miss the Green Boat

Administrator wants to flood communities with eco-friendly information

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lisa-jackson1As the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson is directly involved in regulating and advising eco-friendly initiatives in President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In addition to safeguarding air, water, and land,  Jackson is responsible for more than $7 billion in funding from the Recovery Act to invest in environmental protection and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.

In honor of Earth Day, Jackson, the first African American administrator for the EPA, discusses how blacks and minority businesses can ride the green wave.

BlackEnterprise.com: As the EPA’s first African-American administrator do you feel it’s important for more African-Americans to get involved with the environment and embrace the clean energy future? Do you think it’s a bit of a struggle with African-Americans to get on board with that?

Lisa Jackson: I think energy is easier for people to embrace, for African-Americans to embrace, than the environment. We falsely kind of believe that the environment is something out there that we didn’t worry about too much and I think that the environmental justice movement should be credited for making it clear that anything that impacts the environment tends to impact people of color potentially more and certainly low income people.

The president is meeting a great need. We have to follow him and realize that he is calling on Americans to embrace a completely different future. It will be a new economy and the best thing about a new economy is that it wipes the board clean and away and allows us an opportunity to get in at the ground floor and we should not miss that opportunity.

Air quality and protecting America’s water are some of your top priorities. Why?

Literally we need clean air to live, to be healthy, and we’ve had a series of setbacks in court decisions what I think are regulations that were either on the wrong track with respect to air. Although it has gotten cleaner, we’ve sort of stalled in our efforts to fight pollution as we move forward.

On water quality — we take water for granted. So we at the EPA, we really have only one mission, and that is to protect the environment. And there are only three big parts of the environment: air, water and the land. If the EPA is not out there doing its job for the American people, then they would have the right to question why we are here at all. We have to get to work.

How do you plan to attract and encourage small business owners and corporations to get on board with the green economy? What type of incentives will there be?

The Recovery Act will include both outright grants, and it will include loans and loan guarantees, and tax credits all in those clean energy and renewable energy fields.
We’re already seeing political and local leaders be very thoughtful about ways to really be transformative. Obviously the job part of it we touch, but we’re not leading. The White House has hired Van Jones from Green for All [to be the special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the Council on Environmental Quality].

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  • Great interview.

  • Great article. I totally agree with Administrator Jackson in that African Americans should join the green movement. I believe there’s been a misconception that going green is a “white” thing, but that is rarely the case. Van Jones has been a vocal advocate for environmental justice for some time. If you have not read his book “The Green Collar Economy,” I suggest that you do. It will really open your mind to the concept of environmentalism and how it would solve both our problems of climate change and unemployment. I’m currently the campus sustainability officer at Virginia Wesleyan College, so I’m very much in support for the “green” movement, whether it’s recycling, or conserving energy.

  • Vince Macintosh

    Typical article, could have been written by any of the previous admins. Van Jones has been vocal but has not been in EJ long and has not TMK run any type of for profit business – not exactly the best qualifications. The only thing new here is more focus. Much of this was first proposed o in the 70s incl solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Then as now, price is set by the world market and consumers in the US make choices based on self interest, custom, and competition (all of which are reflected in marketing). A few greens, and (much fewer in number) people of color who have led the way in EJ and in the environmental movement overall have and do participate in the green economy. Where was Lisa Jackson and Obama all those/ these years. Johnny and Jane come lately to the party. I love t youth, the energy and fresh take on tried ideas but then there is reality. The recovery money will mostly go to established companies since it has to be spent right away and they will hire those already in the workforce who have the skills for those basic industries. There will be much oversight of these funds and risky new ventures will not see much of the overall pot. Look deeply into who ownes and who is buying up and into the green economy and jobs – the companies will be familiar and the MOs. I think there are a lot of good hings happening and that can happen and I’ve been black and green for a long long time. something we don’t seem to do is to look inward and respect history. Building a business takes time and energy. It takes a clear coherent message and the ability to address a need with something tangible. It takes specifics. Like many times before this is yet another opportunity. Let’s hope like before it’s not wasted, abandoned, or shortchanged. Support local business that practice sustainabilty regardless of the color of the owner, practice a sustainable lifestyle and reduce and reuse and buy products that contribute to that but only buy as much as you need and will use. Demand more from you elected and tax supported officials and agencies local, national and international. And, follow the money both upstream and downstream don’t be fooled by words. have they walked the talk and for how long.

  • I am so excited about going green. I have an innovative idea. But I am afraid of putting it out there. I have some, but limited business knowlegde. Although the market has been tapped. There room for growth in this going green service.
    I would like some one to direct me to where I should start. Some one suggested the SBA. I have to put my business plan together.

    Any thoughts Ypettaway@bellsouth.net

  • Interesting read. There is currently quite a lot of information around this subject around and about on the net and some are most defintely better than others. You have caught the detail here just right which makes for a refreshing change – thanks.