Apple 2.0

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Apple's new environmental VP was inspired by Love Canal

May 30, 2013: 12:51 PM ET

Shell Oil's money sent Lisa Jackson to college. An oil pipeline drove her from the EPA.

Obama and Jackson getting briefed on the BP oil spill

President Obama and EPA director Jackson (right) getting briefed on the 2010 BP oil spill.

FORTUNE --  For people who didn't know much about Lisa P. Jackson before Tim Cook announced Tuesday that he had hired the former head of the EPA as Apple's (AAPL) first vice president for environmental initiatives, here's a briefing:

  • She was born in Philadelphia, raised in New Orleans, graduated summa com laude from Tulane and got a masters in chemical engineering from Princeton.
  • She was planning on a career in the chemical industry when the discovery of a toxic waste dump under a school playground at Love Canal turned her around.
  • "It occurred to me, if an engineer can be the person who designs all these systems that make all this waste, it's probably going to take an engineer to figure out what kind of systems will treat it and get rid of it," she told Chemical and Engineering News.
  • She joined the EPA in 1987, and for 16 years supervised hazardous waste cleanups in the agency's Superfund remediation program.
  • In 2002 she moved to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, where she focused on protecting the state's ground water.
  • As commissioner of the DEP under N.J. Gov. John Corzine, she led compliance sweeps through Camden and Patterson, two low-income communities where the effects of pollution on public health were particularly severe.
  • 391624721949As President Obama's nominee to head the EPA, she pledged in 2008 to focus on the core issues of protecting air and water quality, preventing exposure to toxic contamination, and reducing greenhouse gases. She was easily confirmed by voice vote.
  • In 2009 she began a campaign to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by declaring carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases a threat to public health.
  • After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill she took heat from environmental groups for choosing Corexit over other EPA-approved oil dispersants that might have been less toxic to the aquatic food chain.
  • In 2011 President Obama rejected her plan to tighten EPA standards for smog emissions, leading to speculation that she might resign in protest.
  • She got on the wrong side of environmental activists again in May 2011 when she testified that she was not aware of any cases where hydraulic fracturing had contaminated water.
  • At the same time she was being targeted by the coal industry and by Republican politicians, including Sen. Jim Inhofe (Rep. Okla.), who doesn't believe that human activity causes climate change, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Rep., Alaska), who called her greenhouse gas initiative an "economic train wreck."
  • On December 13, 2012, the Assistant Inspector General notified the EPA they would be conducting an audit into record keeping practices associated with some 12,000 private e-mails that Jackson sent under the pseudonym "Richard Windsor" -- providing much fodder for Fox News and the New York Post.
  • Two weeks later, Jackson submitted her resignation -- a move some critics attributed to the Windsor e-mails. But according to EPA insiders she wanted to get out of the agency before the President approved a $7 billion plan to build an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Jackson issued a statement:

Jackson. AP Photo.

Jackson. AP Photo.

"I'm incredibly impressed with Apple's commitment to the environment and I'm thrilled to be joining the team. Apple has shown how innovation can drive real progress by removing toxics from its products, incorporating renewable energy in its data center plans, and continually raising the bar for energy efficiency in the electronics industry. I look forward to helping support and promote these efforts, as well as leading new ones in the future aimed at protecting the environment."

And so did Greenpeace, long a thorn in Apple's side:

"Apple has made a bold move in hiring Lisa Jackson, a proven advocate with a track record of combating toxic waste and the dirty energy that causes global warming, two of Apple's biggest challenges as it continues to grow. Jackson can make Apple the top environmental leader in the tech sector by helping the company use its influence to push electric utilities and governments to provide the clean energy that both Apple and America need right now."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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