Lisa Jackson, a former Chemical Engineer with a degree from Princeton, has been confirmed as the newest administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson, a New Jersey resident who has worked as a state environmental official there, is the first African American to lead EPA.
As soon as she was confirmed, Jackson sent a letter to all EPA employee’s that outlined President Barack Obama’s goals, priorities and expectations for the organization. One of these priorities, according to a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board, is the issue of rapid climate change.
Upon assuming the role of EPA head, Jackson also promised to visit Libby, Montana, where asbestos-related disease has stricken countless residents as a result of contamination from the former W.R. Grace-run mines. Jackson was invited to speak in Libby by Montana Senator Max Baucus, who has long dedicated himself to helping the residents of Libby.
Senator Baucus and the citizens of Libby hope that Jackson will declare their town to be a “public health emergency,” a title that has been refused by EPA in the past despite the seriousness of the asbestos-related problems there.
The asbestos health crisis in Libby is only becoming worse, as funding for health programs specifically for those suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused illnesses will be running out within the next few months. Libby officials have asked the state to allocate more funding for these programs in the new budget so that health care programs can continue.
Otherwise, say town officials, those suffering from serious asbestos-related diseases will have to come up with funding to cover medical treatment on their own, and those who have not yet been diagnosed with any specific disease but who are undergoing yearly screenings will have to travel elsewhere for that procedure.