In the summer of 2005 Lisa Jackson’s mother, a New Orleans resident, was recovering from surgery. Jackson was on hand to help her mother when Hurricane Katrina broke through the levees built to protect the vulnerable city, unleashing scenes of death and destruction that few will ever forget.

After being nominated by President Obama to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Jackson told the confirmation committee that “my mother, like so many others, lost all she had in Hurricane Katrina. Her home was vulnerable because of its design, but also because of the failure of government-built levees that were supposed to protect her.” The natural defenses of the marshes and the wetlands south of New Orleans were also less effective than they should have been, she continued, because of destabilization caused by oil and gas lines constructed through them over the years.

Jackson, who had headed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in New Jersey, told the Senate committee conducting the confirmation hearings that she nearly left government service after Hurricane Katrina. “The government agency that was supposed to respond to the disaster was inept and incapable,” she said.

But Jackson, her trajectory in government clearly on the rise, decided to stay, and she easily won confirmation to one of the most difficult jobs in the land.

Lisa Jackson lives in East Windsor with her husband and her two sons, and will commute to Washington from there, at least until the end of the school year. She was born in Philadelphia, adopted as a baby, and raised in New Orleans.

Jackson is declining most requests for interviews, including U.S. 1’s, but a great deal has been written about her as she spends her first days as head of an agency whose responsibilities are endless.

Under George W. Bush’s presidency there was a perception that environmental problems and initiatives were given short shrift. This is the reason, many have conjectured, that Christine Todd Whitman, the other woman from New Jersey to hold the top job at the EPA, left after two-and-a-half years.

In 2003, after Whitman announced her resignation, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope was quoted as saying that Whitman was often at odds with the Bush administration on policy matters. “Under the circumstances, Christie Whitman did the best she could at the EPA, but the Bush administration simply wouldn’t allow her to do the job,” Pope said. As an example, he cited what he described as a broken campaign pledge by Bush to curb carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, National Environment Trust president Philip E. Clapp said, “Whitman must feel like her own long national nightmare is finally over.”

But in subsequent interviews, Whitman has insisted that was not the case. It was merely “time to go home,” she said.

After eight years of having little hope that their voices would be heard, environmentalists with wide-ranging, and sometimes contradictory, agendas are besieging Jackson with requests for immediate action. It is early days, but thanks to her experience in New Jersey, she already knows that it will not be possible to please everyone, or to find the money to get everything done, no matter how enthusiastic President Obama is about environmental protection.

Jackson, 46, graduated summa cum laude from Tulane with a degree in chemical engineering and earned a master’s degree, also in chemical engineering, from Princeton University. Before being appointed head of the NJ DEP by Governor Jon Corzine, Jackson had already spent 16 years with the EPA heading numerous programs, including land use regulation, water supply, geological survey, water monitoring and standards, and watershed management. At the EPA she also focused on strategies for fostering smart growth. She joined the NJ DEP in 2002 and became head of the agency in 2006.

During the time that Jackson headed the DEP, the economy declined sharply, and her budget dropped from $470 million to $421 million and lost about 400 of its 3,400 employees.

The New York Times, writing about Jackson’s tenure as head of the NJ DEP, credited her for being a master juggler and an astute politician. “I think she is an environmentalist at heart,” Dave Pringle, a lobbyist for the New Jersey Federation, is quoted as saying. “And she is effective at getting as much as her boss will let her get.” As the budget crunch worsened, accomplishing her goals became more difficult. “And late last year, in a worsening economic crisis, Jackson was powerless to stop a drive by lawmakers and business leaders to scale back standards for D.E.P. development permits as a way to boost the prospects for commercial growth,” the Times reported on January 25. “But she did succeed in turning what was originally proposed as a broad suspension of D.E.P. regulations into a more limited rule that simply extended the expiration date on approved permits by about two years.”

New Jersey, one of the earliest industrialized states, as well as the most densely populated state, is about as tough a proving ground as Jackson could have had. She won kudos from some, including the Sierra Club, for her work. Others, including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington, D.C., group, were critical, characterizing her as too politically accommodating.

Leading the country’s environmental protection agency, Jackson faces urgent issues on myriad fronts — from global warming to the economics of recycling used soda cans. There are conundrums at every turn. The use of ethanol reduces dependence on oil, but food producers are urgently lobbying the EPA to back off on its use, pointing out that the corn-based fuel is causing inflation in food prices.

Upping fuel efficiency requirements for automobiles also reduces dependence on oil, but meeting them may be an unattainable goal for staggering auto companies — especially because 14 states have adopted 14 different standards, and 14 different timetables for meeting them. Nuclear power is being championed by many — including former Governor Whitman — as the ultimate answer to greenhouse emissions and global warming, but no answer has yet been found for security concerns and no foolproof method for disposing of nuclear waste has yet been devised.

As for New Orleans and flooding, many years before Katrina struck John McPhee wrote, in his essay collection “The Control of Nature,” about the wildly conflicting interests that collide where the Mississippi ends its journey to the Gulf of Mexico, and about the herculean struggle of the Army Corps of Engineers to keep the river flowing along the same route that it followed in 1950. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the bayous to their south is just one of hundreds of regions in the country, and represent just one of the thousands of complex issues facing Jackson as she takes on a job whose difficulty quotient may be only slightly lower than that of her new boss. The high hopes of dozens of neglected constituencies ride with her just as they do with President Obama.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

‘Green’ Women: Whitman’s Strategy

Christine Todd Whitman started the Whitman Strategy Group, an enviromental consulting firm based in Forrestal Village, with four colleagues not long after she left the Bush administration Environmental Protection Agency in 2003. “We were talking about the kinds of things we wanted to do and the experience we had, and we were looking for ways to marry the two,” Whitman recalls.

The Whitman Strategy Group works with individual companies, helping them to improve their environmental profiles and to navigate government policy and regulations. “We work with companies to show them ways to be more environmentally responsible and still make more money,” says Whitman. Her group offers clients a menu of ways to reduce energy use, ranging from relatively inexpensive measures like changing light bulbs to replacing an entire heating system.

Whitman, who left her post as New Jersey’s governor to accept the EPA job in 2001, says that she comes at environmental issues with a belief that policies and regulations should consider the business community as a partner in combating climate change and reducing energy consumption. “I believe firmly that we have the most innovative and progressive business community,” she says, “but business needs certainty; it needs regulations and standards that are very clear.”

An egregious example of uncertainty in the regulatory field right now, she says, is the existence of separate benchmarks for each state for reducing greenhouse gases rather than a federal cap on carbon emissions. “It is a nightmare for a business to meet 50 different standards,” says Whitman, who thinks a federal cap on carbon is the way to go. “One can argue that a carbon tax is the most equitable, easy way, but I don’t see an appetite for it,” she says.

“Voluntary programs are making a difference, but I think we need national caps,” she says, citing the success of a cap-and-trade program for reducing acid rain and sulfur dioxide emissions. “I believe most states will back off from individual targets if there is a reasonable national target.”

Although the twin issues of air quality and climate change are likely to be front and center for the new Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, an East Windsor resident, and the Obama administration, Whitman warns them not to forget a significant contributor to poor air quality that is being shunted to the sidelines — the effect of changes in land-use patterns.

“Another nasty little secret that no one wants to talk about when they talk about climate change is a study, seven years old, funded by NASA,” says Whitman. The study found that land use changes like deforestation and changes in farming practices have added a significant amount of carbon into the atmosphere. “We would have had to have doubled carbon emissions in the atmosphere over the last 300 years to equal the impact on climate change that we have had from land use changes,” Whitman says.

But she is quick to add that we also need to concentrate on reducing pollutants in the air, whether or not we believe human activity is causing climate change, simply because of their impact on human health.

But Whitman does not believe reducing emissions will be enough. “We are not going to solve the problem unless we look at it holistically,” says Whitman, explaining that we also need to develop solutions for sprawl and implement smart growth strategies.

Another issue Whitman believes should not be downplayed is water quality. “For the most immediate future water — its quantity and quality — is an enormous issue that we haven’t begun to tackle,” she says. The issue of safe water ranges from sewers, water pipes, and overflows after heavy rains to an aging infrastructure and even to problems as mundane and every day as people who change their oil and dump the old stuff on their driveways rather than disposing of it correctly. “We face an enormous issue,” says Whitman, “and we can’t let that issue get lost in the climate change debate.”

Whitman would also like the Obama agenda to include investment in wind farms, nuclear power plants, and clean-coal technology in order to create jobs and reduce fossil fuel consumption. “We need more conservation and renewables, but we will still have coal and gas,” she says. “There is no simple, easy answer.”

Today nuclear reactors provide 20 percent of our power, and one consideration is whether to build more nuclear plants. “It is the only form of base power that doesn’t emit regulated greenhouse gases when producing power,” says Whitman, “and online per kilowatt, it is one of the least expensive power sources — competitive with hydro power.” By 2030, the demand for electricity is expected to increase by 25 percent; however, simply to maintain the percentage supplied by nuclear plants at 20 percent would require the Department of Energy to approve 30 new nuclear reactors.

“All of this needs to be done in the context of cooperative partnership with the private sector,” Whitman emphasizes. “We need government standards and enforcement of regulations, but we would get so much further, so much faster if we can engage the private sector. The private sector is enormously good at innovation, and if we can put together the right incentives, with some certainty about what the regulatory framework will be, we can make enormous progress, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Whitman does think that President Obama is on the right track internationally in suggesting that he cannot ask countries like China and India to commit themselves to reducing greenhouse gases if we do not reduce them in the United States. “Until we do that, developing countries see it as a way for developed countries to slow down their economic growth,” she says.

Whitman also voices a concern about the different loci of environmental leadership within the Obama administration — Carol Browner, a former EPA administrator, is now “energy czar” in the White House; Nancy Sutley, a protege of Browner, is the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Lisa Jackson is the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman worries that this gives a mixed message as to who is in charge and could allow things to fall through the cracks. “Business and environmentalists want to know who to go to when they want to talk about policy,” she says.

Helping companies to navigate the environmental bureaucracy is a service that the Whitman Strategy Group offers. Another is showing companies how being green can add black to their bottom lines, while at the same time, enhancing their reputations.

Whitman cites one company where she is a board member that voluntarily reduced its energy consumption by 19 percent while doubling its revenue. Although the costs for energy efficient systems are generally greater up front, she says, they are quickly amortized.

The experience of working in government that Whitman and all of her partners have also comes in handy when advising companies about government regulations. “We advise businesses on what it takes to be a good environmental steward and how to get to be looked on by regulators as a good player — so that when new regulations are being considered, you have a place at the table,” she says. “You need to show how you responded and how you walk the talk.

“We also work with companies to help them find their way through the regulatory morass,” says Whitman. Companies often focus on the wrong level of government as they try to affect the regulatory process, she says, “and we will point them in the right direction.”

Whitman’s firm also serves as environmental advisor for a city of the future, the planned metropolis New Songdo City on the outskirts of Seoul, Korea, that is being designed with environmental protection and sustainability in mind. The goal is for neighborhoods to be totally LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development) rated.

“We are working to make sure our clients in Korea are meeting standards and doing what they are supposed to do and reminding them of requirements on energy consumption to get that certification,” says Whitman. Her group also oversaw a set of public meetings that brought together architects and the local community to figure out what people want and expect from development and to review opportunities and alternatives. She and her partners have worked with the Korean Green Building Council to put together a plan, and they have found a local environmental firm to do daily oversight and help work through hitches that come up in working with foreign governments and cultures.

The city is set to open fully in 2012, but the office buildings and central park are already complete, and the convention center — the largest single-span facility in Southeast Asia — is in use. The apartment buildings are topped out, the golf course is nearly complete, and the school will take students in the fall. The city is expected to have a permanent population of 65,000,000, which will swell to 110,000,000 during the work day.

Whitman was born and raised in politics — in particular Republican politics. Her parents met at the 1932 Republican convention. Her father, William Bray Todd, was the Republican state chair in New Jersey from 1961 to 1969 and 1974 to 1977. Her mother, Eleanor Schley Todd, was a member of the Republic National Committee from 1953 to 1961. Her mother was involved in local parks, including service on the committee that established the Gateways National Park, which spans Jamaica Bay, Staten Island, and Sandy Hook. She also served on New Jersey’s Board of Higher Education, an agency that Whitman dissolved early on in her tenure as governor.

Whitman describes both of her parents as outdoor people, and the family lived on a farm. As a result, says Whitman, “I spent a Whitman would also like the Obama agenda to include investment in wind farms, nuclear power plants, and clean-coal technology in order to create jobs and reduce fossil fuel consumption. “We need more conservation and renewables, but we will still have coal and gas,” she says. “There is no simple, easy answer.”

Today nuclear reactors provide 20 percent of our power, and one consideration is whether to build more nuclear plants. “It is the only form of base power that doesn’t emit regulated greenhouse gases when producing power,” says Whitman, “and online per kilowatt, it is one of the least expensive power sources — competitive with hydro power.” By 2030, the demand for electricity is expected to increase by 25 percent; however, simply to maintain the percentage supplied by nuclear plants at 20 percent would require the Department of Energy to approve 30 new nuclear reactors.

“All of this needs to be done in the context of cooperative partnership with the private sector,” Whitman emphasizes. “We need government standards and enforcement of regulations, but we would get so much further, so much faster if we can engage the private sector. The private sector is enormously good at innovation, and if we can put together the right incentives, with some certainty about what the regulatory framework will be, we can make enormous progress, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Whitman does think that President Obama is on the right track internationally in suggesting that he cannot ask countries like China and India to commit themselves to reducing greenhouse gases if we do not reduce them in the United States. “Until we do that, developing countries see it as a way for developed countries to slow down their economic growth,” she says.

Whitman also voices a concern about the different loci of environmental leadership within the Obama administration — Carol Browner, a former EPA administrator, is now “energy czar” in the White House; Nancy Sutley, a protege of Browner, is the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Lisa Jackson is the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman worries that this gives a mixed message as to who is in charge and could allow things to fall through the cracks. “Business and environmentalists want to know who to go to when they want to talk about policy,” she says.

Helping companies to navigate the environmental bureaucracy is a service that the Whitman Strategy Group offers. Another is showing companies how being green can add black to their bottom lines, while at the same time, enhancing their reputations.

Whitman cites one company where she is a board member that voluntarily reduced its energy consumption by 19 percent while doubling its revenue. Although the costs for energy efficient systems are generally greater up front, she says, they are quickly amortized.

The experience of working in government that Whitman and all of her partners have also comes in handy when advising companies about government regulations. “We advise businesses on what it takes to be a good environmental steward and how to get to be looked on by regulators as a good player — so that when new regulations are being considered, you have a place at the table,” she says. “You need to show how you responded and how you walk the talk.

“We also work with companies to help them find their way through the regulatory morass,” says Whitman. Companies often focus on the wrong level of government as they try to affect the regulatory process, she says, “and we will point them in the right direction.”

Whitman’s firm also serves as environmental advisor for a city of the future, the planned metropolis New Songdo City on the outskirts of Seoul, Korea, that is being designed with environmental protection and sustainability in mind. The goal is for neighborhoods to be totally LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development) rated.

“We are working to make sure our clients in Korea are meeting standards and doing what they are supposed to do and reminding them of requirements on energy consumption to get that certification,” says Whitman. Her group also oversaw a set of public meetings that brought together architects and the local community to figure out what people want and expect from development and to review opportunities and alternatives.

She and her partners have worked with the Korean Green Building Council to put together a plan, and they have found a local environmental firm to do daily oversight and help work through hitches that come up in working with foreign governments and cultures.

The city is set to open fully in 2012, but the office buildings and central park are already complete, and the convention center — the largest single-span facility in Southeast Asia — is in use. The apartment buildings are topped out, the golf course is nearly complete, and the school will take students in the fall. The city is expected to have a permanent population of 65,000,000, which will swell to 110,000,000 during the work day.

Whitman was born and raised in politics — in particular Republican politics. Her parents met at the 1932 Republican convention. Her father, William Bray Todd, was the Republican state chair in New Jersey from 1961 to 1969 and 1974 to 1977. Her mother, Eleanor Schley Todd, was a member of the Republic National Committee from 1953 to 1961. Her mother was involved in local parks, including service on the committee that established the Gateways National Park, which spans Jamaica Bay, Staten Island, and Sandy Hook. She also served on New Jersey’s Board of Higher Education, an agency that Whitman dissolved early on in her tenure as governor.

Whitman describes both of her parents as outdoor people, and the family lived on a farm. As a result, says Whitman, “I spent a lot of time outdoors learning about man’s impact on nature and how fragile and fickle nature can be.”

For Whitman, politics was more than family conversation and she quickly became an activist. In high school she started a current events club and also engineered a political convention in 1964. .

At Wheaton College, she headed the Republican Club and was vice president of her senior class. Her bachelor’s degree was in international government.

During her junior year, Whitman interned for Senator Clifford Case and then worked for Donald Rumsfeld’s transition team. . Her title was special assistant to the director, but Whitman notes that was a fancy term for filing clerk.

Whitman then worked for the Republican National Committee, moved to a Congressional campaign in Colorado, and ended up back in New York as a consultant on criminal justice issues for the board of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

She also ran an international conference on criminal justice for the National Association of Junior Leagues.

After she was married, Whitman and her husband lived in England for two-and-a-half years, where her daughter was born. When they returned to the United States, Whitman joined the board of the Somerset County Community College, and was then elected to the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

As a freeholder, she and John Kitchen started a farmland protection program for the county and established the first countywide mandatory recycling project.

From 1988 to 1990 Whitman served as president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

As governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001, Whitman supported a healthier environment in the state, helping to preserve open space and instituting a comprehensive beach monitoring system.

In 2001 Whitman was appointed to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, where she promoted watershed-based water protection policies, approved a new standard for arsenic in drinking water, championed regulations requiring non-road diesel engines to reduce sulfur emissions, and established the first federal program to promote redevelopment and reuse of “brownfields,” previously contaminated industrial sites.

Whitman resigned from the head job at the EPA after just two years. At the time, CNN called her “the lone voice for the environment in the Bush administration.” There were numerous reports that she was unhappy with the administration’s policies and priorities in regard to environmental issues, but she has not spoken out against the Bush administration.

In the years since her brief tenure in that administration, Whitman has taken heat for her role in the post-9/11 clean up of the World Trade Center site.

In 2007 hearings, Congress questioned her on the wisdom of declaring air quality at the site safe for returning residents and of not ensuring that rescue workers wore masks and took other precautions.

During the raucous hearings, during which she spoke against a background of boos, Whitman, in fact, asserted that the rescue and clean-up workers were told to wear respirators and that the air in downtown Manhattan was safe for residents.

Back in the generally less rankerous private sector, Whitman says that she is enjoying her work. “It is a nice position to be able to do something we think is good and make money,” she says, “and hopefully we are making things a little better.”

The Whitman Strategy Group, 116 Village Boulevard, Suite 200, Princeton 08540; 609-524-4068. Christie Whitman, partner. Home page: www.whitmanstrategygroup.com.

Jane Kenny: From English Lit to the Environment

Jane Kenny, senior vice president and managing partner of the Whitman Strategy Group, knows first hand the challenges of a complex agency like the Environmental Protection Agency, but she is certain that Lisa Jackson, who was her colleague at the EPA, is up to the job.

Not only is Jackson smart, knowledgeable about the issues, and comfortable around complexity, says Kenny, but she excels at managing people: “She’s calm and understands how to manage difficult situations, and she has a good sense of people and bringing people together to solve problems. She is thoughtful in her approach to solving problems and reaches out to a lot of people — I’ve seen her do it at the EPA and at the state Department of Environmental Protection.”

Although the challenges Jackson will face at the Environmental Protection Agency — which develops and implements regulations governing clean air and water and land use — are enormous, Kenny notes that the opportunities are also immense. “The fact that the president has put the environment and climate change and alternative energy use front and center gives this position an added challenge and the ability to really affect how people think about energy and use energy in at least the next four years,” she says.

On the other hand, the faltering economy may affect how much the public and business will support the agency in its efforts to improve the environment. “Obviously with the economy, people often think that caring about the environment or protecting the environment is not as important as getting business back on track and getting the economy vibrant,” says Kenny, “and yet it would be very short sighted of any of us to leave the environment behind.”

Kenny would like the new administration set out a road map of how the economy can continue to grow while implementing a strong environment and energy agenda. Although many proactive companies see the big picture and understand what changes need to be made in their own corporations and corporate cultures, others do not. “I think sometimes people need to understand what is on their horizon,” she says.

Business practices will have to change, says Kenny, not only as new regulations are enacted, but because the public is starting to expect businesses to protect their employees and be good corporate citizens. These new expectations are coming not only from the general public, but also from people in the market to buy companies. They are more and more interested in whether corporations are creating a decent work environment and making their businesses environmentally sustainable, says Kenny.

While a year ago, everyone was hot to “go green,” she says, now businesses are facing pressure to contain costs and preserve profits and want to wait on changes that are good for the environment. But in Kenny’s view, improving a business’s environmental performance is still good for business.

By increasing energy efficiency in the face of rising energy costs, companies can save money, and environmental management systems across business units can improve environmental friendliness while maintaining profits, for example, by introducing more hybrids into fleets of cars or introducing clean diesel.

Kenny describes herself as “always an English major, because I like to read and write,” and in fact she has a bachelor’s degree in English from Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and “almost a Ph.D. in English literature” from Rutgers.

Even as early as her graduate school days, Kenny says she had environmental tendencies: when other graduate students would complain about the new recycling requirements, Kenny remembers thinking they were a great idea.

Her graduate career ended when she became a writer for Tom Kean, a job she took even though she says, “I was the most unpolitical person you’d ever meet.” But she has loved working for the government and has learned much about how we are affected by the decisions it makes. “You have to pay attention,” she says. “You can’t complain if you don’t pay attention and have a stance.”

Her actual work on the environment started during those first years with Kean, when Kenny focused on natural resources and state parks, in particular Liberty State Park. After seven years in the government, Kenny moved to the private sector, where she served as vice president in a financial services company.

Kenny had been acquainted with Whitman, through what she calls the “women leaders circuit,” and they had also crossed paths at the end of the Kean administration. Although they did not know each other well, Kenny was impressed. “I thought she did such great job running for office, and I was really emotionally so excited to have a woman governor. It seemed amazing that we had gone so long without a woman and that it was such a big deal — but it really was a big deal.”

When Whitman offered Kenny a job, it was like a dream come true. “I thought it would be so cool to work for her — I really admired her and what she was doing,” she says. It worked out, and they have been together ever since.

Kenny’s first job with Whitman was as chief of policy and planning, focusing on how to bring together cabinet agencies and people working in the cities to develop a targeted approach to urban revitalization. “Cities are so great,” says Kenny. “There is already an infrastructure there and they are already developed. We should continue to maintain what exists and then preserve open space.”

In 1996 Kenny became commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, where she implemented urban economic and neighborhood development programs, encouraged sensible state planning, established the nation’s first building rehabilitation code, broadened neighborhood revitalization programs, and financed a record number of affordable housing units.

She was appointed in 2001 to be regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing its work in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. While there, Kenny signed the historic decision to remediate the Hudson River, negotiated an agreement with General Electric to design the river’s clean up, and directed a successful community outreach plan to key stakeholders of the Hudson River community.

In this position, it was Kenny who managed the agency’s response to the indoor air quality crisis in downtown Manhattan following September 11, 2001. Like Whitman, Kenny has been involved in post-9/11 investigations of just how bad the air quality was in downtown Manhattan, what precautions first responders should have taken, and who should have ensured that they took them.

In September, 2006, CBS television in New York quoted Kenny as saying that her agency told the Giuliani Administration every day at daily briefings the air at ground zero was bad. “EPA made a distinction between working on the pile, which was toxic soup, and the air in lower Manhattan, where all the readings showed no long term health issues,” Kenny said. “Everyone responded with their hearts and souls,” she said, “and we shouldn’t be in the position of blaming and second guessing.”

Kenny, back in the private sector, is concentrating on conservation. From a several-year stint in England, she had learned that Americans tend to use more than we need. “We do consume more than any other of the western developed countries,” she says, “and it seems like a good approach to think about what we really need.”

Kenny enjoys her job with the Whitman Strategy Group. “We don’t take anything because it’s there,” she says. “We only take a client if what they are doing is the right thing and we feel we can help them achieve their goals better, and they have integrity.”

Susan Mulvaney: From George H.W. To George ‘W’

Susan Mulvaney entered the governmental sphere right after she graduated from Georgetown University in 1986 as an economics major. .

She started her career at the White House’s office of intergovernmental affairs at the end of the Reagan administration, moved in 1989 to the Department of Health and Human Services under George H. W. Bush, and then switched in 1993 to a position advising Pennsylvania Congressman Jim Greenwood on issues before the energy and commerce committee and the health and environment subcommittee.

Mulvaney’s next career step, in 1995, allowed her to look at federal issues from a state perspective as deputy director of Pennsylvannia Governor Tom Ridge’s Washington office, where she focused on federal environmental and natural resource issues.

In 1998 she became director of New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman’s Washington office. Mulvaney says that she and Whitman have similarly moderate Republican views. As head of Whitman’s Washington office, she covered a whole range of issues, although the environment was a significant one.

When George W. Bush nominated Whitman to be administrator of the EPA, she invited Mulvaney to come along as her deputy chief of staff.

While at the agency Mulvaney was involved in clean diesel regulations and brownfields legislation, and after September 11 she was the administrator’s point person for homeland security issues.

Mulvaney says that this experience is helpful in her work at the Whitman Strategy Group. “One advantage we have is having worked on issues from the state and federal level,” she says. “Knowing how policies are carried out at difference levels of government and having worked at the EPA, from the inside, I got a better understanding of how the federal regulatory process works.”

She says that she and her partners focus on helping companies develop and implement sound environmental and energy policies and navigate the maze of bureaucracy at all levels of government.

Innovations the group is enthusiastic about range from clean coal technology to robotics for inspecting water pipe systems to green or alternative chemicals for use in manufacturing to water monitoring technologies.

Mulvaney lists a series of challenges facing Lisa Jackson: : climate change; the denial of the California waiver from federal regulations that would have allowed the state to impose its own stricter limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions; whether the EPA will issue an “endangerment finding” about whether the greenhouse gases emitted from new motor vehicles endanger the public health or welfare and then issue regulations; and major water infrastructure needs. “There is no shortage of work at the EPA,” she observes.

Mulvaney thinks Lisa Jackson’s experience as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is excellent preparation for the national job. “New Jersey has a lot of the issues in microcosm that we are facing nationally,” she says.

Jessica Furey: Influential Attorney and Busy Mom

Jessica Furey stepped into environmental work through the legal door. Her first assignment out of Cardozo Law School was working for the environmental protection section at the New Jersey attorney general’s office, in particular on licensure of solid and hazardous waste and enforcement of clean water and air issues.

Furey was tapped, while at the attorney general’s office, for what was supposed to be a three-week, temporary assignment at the governor’s office. The “loan” extended to six years, during which Furey worked her way up from a young counsel to deputy chief counsel. She returned to the attorney general’s office for another couple of years, and when Whitman moved to the Environmental Protection Agency, Furey went with her to Washington.

Furey’s first position at the Environmental Protection Agency, in February 2001, was as counselor to the administrator, working on regulatory, policy, and legal issues.

Two years later, right before Whitman left the agency, Furey became associate administrator for the agency’s office of policy, economics, and innovation. Its roughly 200-plus employees help manage the regulatory process, do innovations work under the National Center for Environmental Innovation, and work on a host of programs with the private sector and the states doing pilots of new approaches to solving environmental problems and challenges.

Furey was also responsible for the National Center for Environmental Economics and its team of 30 economists, who do research and analysis to support the regulatory process.

As head of this office, Furey learned about the whole range of environmental issues. “It was a clearing house for the major regulations, and I got to work with all of the media (program) offices — air, water, soil, pesticides — and I got a smattering of everything going on across the agency and its regional offices,” she says.

Furey left the agency in January, 2005, to work for the Whitman Strategy Group.

Furey says that she foresees a number of challenges for Lisa Jackson as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. “Climate change is the number one issue on the plate of the administrator,” she says, “and that’s a real quagmire.” Looking at the structure of the Clean Air Act, Jackson will have to decide whether a legislative or regulatory approach is the best strategy for moving forward.

An issue raised by Jackson during her confirmation hearings has to do with agency morale. Staff members feel that the agency’s focus should be on sound science and transparency, and during the Bush administration there has been frustration among the staff that some tough decisions were being made politically at the White House rather than being based on the scientific data.

The agency has also experienced a declining budget. “There is a lot of work to do and only a certain number of bodies in the office to get the work done.”

But Furey sees great opportunities as well — in programs on green remediation strategies, integrating sustainability into the agency’s approaches, and working with the private sector..

Out of government, and established in her private sector job, Furey says that she appreciates the flexibility of being at a woman-owned firm, because she has three children, ages six and under. “That’s the reason I left EPA,” she says. Although she liked the people and the issues, balancing management of a big office and the needs of children who need her time and attention was more than she could handle. Now she can work at home and has more control over her schedule. “My partners are supportive of my family situation,” she says, “and we all share the same values and goals as far as approaching our business.”

Furey also contrasts the Whitman Strategy Group’s collaborative approach with what is more common in Washington — the “eat what you kill” business model, where people get money only for the clients they bring in and partners keep secrets from one another. “We bring a client in, share the client, cross-fertilize our ideas, and work on the project together,” she says. “All the revenues go into a pot and we split that. We’re not competing with our partners; we’re concerned with the business as a whole.”

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