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Lisa Jackson to Step Down as EPA Administrator; Is a Cleantech Innovator Next in Line?

Posted in Renewable Energy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Lisa Jackson will step down following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2013. During her tenure, Ms. Jackson has drawn a great deal of attention from congressional Republicans, public interest groups, and news media outlets for EPA’s stance on various topics, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline, global warming, and regulatory changes. Also of note, during Ms. Jackson’s tenure the EPA significantly increased its efforts to understand the potential environmental impacts of nanomaterials.

Of note to cleantech followers, Ms. Jackson has overseen EPA’s imposition of new regulations on a number of traditional fuel production sources, such as coal-fired plants. Many have cited these increased regulations as providing cleantech companies with an opportunity to make an aggressive push in the marketplace due to a more level playing field. And with President Obama’s call for new investment in the cleantech sector during his recent presidential campaign, a great deal of attention had been placed on Ms. Jackson’s potential role in that initiative.

The names of a number of potential replacements have been thrown around, including the current deputy EPA administrator, Bob Perciasepe; a number of former EPA and Clinton White House staff; and Daniel Esty, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Esty’s potential appointment is of note to cleantech followers, as he has been involved with the development of a clean energy bank in Connecticut through the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA).

In general terms, CEFIA is a quasi-public corporation which takes public funds and resources and combines them with private capital, which can then be used in a number of different ways to provide low-cost financing for clean energy projects. CEFIA has been modeled after a number of developing projects, including the United Kingdom’s Green Investment Bank and Australia’s proposed Clean Energy Finance Corporation. As those in the cleantech sector know, providing options for low-cost financing is an important tool for increasing clean energy project development, as it makes the large up-front development costs more bearable. With the increasing likelihood that federal grants and tax credits will continue to dry up, clean energy banks may be the next step to creating a positive move forward for the industry. There has been speculation that the clean energy bank model could be used on a federal level, and Esty’s consideration for the top environmental post could signal the administration’s interest in pursuing such a course.

 

Michael Hecker is a senior associate in the Environment & Energy Practice at Hodgson Russ LLP. You can reach him at mhecker@hodgsonruss.com.