WASHINGTON -- Lisa Jackson said she will step down as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after four years during which she led efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
"I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction," Jackson, 50, said yesterday in a statement from the agency. Her plan is to depart after the president's State of the Union speech next year.
Under Jackson, the EPA negotiated stricter fuel-efficiency standards with automakers and proposed the first-ever rules for mercury pollution and carbon emissions at power plants, often triggering protests from industry and Republicans in Congress.
Jackson, the first black person to head the 18,000-employee agency, also pushed to ensure that poor and minority groups don't bear the brunt of environmental pollution.
"Over the last four years, Lisa Jackson has shown an unwavering commitment to the health of our families and our children," President Barack Obama said in a statement.
"Under her leadership, the EPA has taken sensible and important steps to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink."
Possible successors include Bob Perciasepe, the agency's No. 2 official; Heather Zichal, the top White House aide for energy and environment; Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air pollution; and Dan Esty, the top environmental regulator in Connecticut and a former Yale University professor, environmental advocates said.
Health and environmental groups have praised Jackson for taking up rules that were delayed or weakened under the previous administration, while Republicans in Congress complained that the EPA's efforts were hurting the still-struggling U.S. economy.
Republicans unsuccessfully sought to overturn by legislation the greenhouse-gas curbs.