EPA Pick Faces Friendly Senators at Confirmation

Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, received an enthusiastic greeting at her confirmation hearing today by senators who say the agency desperately needs to have its integrity restored.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, said Jackson's nomination marks a "turning point" for the agency.

"The EPA has hurt people and made them less safe over the last eight years," Boxer said of the agency under President Bush, likening the EPA to Sleeping Beauty.

"We have an agency and a set of laws that are already in place to do what we must be done. But that agency as it was conceived of by President Nixon needs to be awakened from a deep and nightmarish sleep," Boxer said.

Boxer has repeatedly sparred with the Bush administration EPA over a number of issues, including EPA's refusal to grant California a waiver to limit vehicle emissions.

Jackson told senators that she would run the EPA with transparency and openness.

"Science must be the backbone of what EPA does," Jackson said her opening statement. "The environmental and public-health laws Congress has enacted direct the EPA administrator to base decisions on the best available science. EPA's addressing of scientific decisions should reflect the expert judgment of the agency's career scientists and independent advisors."

In her testimony, Jackson outlined the key objectives of Obama's environmental initiatives, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addressing air pollution and toxic chemicals, clean water and hazardous waste sites.

"These five problems are tough, but so is our resolve to conquer them," Jackson said.

If confirmed, Jackson, 46, would be the first black person to lead the EPA -- an agency with 17,000 employees and a $7 billion budget.

Before running the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Jackson worked at the EPA for 16 years. She served under Carol Browner, President Bill Clinton's EPA chief and Obama's pick for a new White House position coordinating energy and climate policy.

Later in the day, the committee will also hear from Obama's choice to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Helen Sutley.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.