EPA chief Lisa Jackson, who kicked off her tenure with ambitious talk of addressing climate change and other environmental issues only to spend the next four years battling industry, announced she would step down.
Jackson said in a statement released Thursday the EPA has made historic progress in protecting the environment, maintaining clean air and water, ensuring food safety and moving toward energy independence.
"I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction," Jackson said in the statement. She didn't give specific reasons for her departure, except to say she was ready for new challenges and to spend time with family.
Jackson's tenure has been marked by a series of controversies over the past four years, beginning with the EPA's final ruling in 2009 that greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and the environment. The decision paved the way for regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, refineries, factories and vehicles.
In the wake of the so-called endangerment finding, the auto industry agreed to strict new emissions standards for light cars and trucks.
The EPA under Jackson's lead had its fair share of defeats and setbacks. Jackson was a target of Republicans, who accused her of pushing forward job-killing regulations, and was called to testify before House committees dozens of times. Jackson brushed off the questioning, which was often hostile, as part of the territory and part of the new partisan reality, the NYT reported.
The EPA also was accused by environmentalists prior to President Barack Obama's re-election of softening or delaying proposed standards for industry. The federal agency deferred requirements for industrial waste landfills to report methane correction factor used in their emissions until March 31, 2013. The EPA also postponed finalizing standards for cooling water intake structures at industrial facilities and delayed a rule for petroleum and natural gas systems, underground coal mines and industrial waste landfill operators to report data used to determine their greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, the EPA faced resistance from the White House, such as its rejection in 2011 of Jackson's proposal to strengthen national smog standards.
Since Obama's re-election there have been several decisions issued by the agency including tougher air quality standards for fine particulate matter, or soot, released from automobile exhausts and power plants as well as final Clean Air act rule for industrial boilers and incinerators.