About a year into Jackson's tenure the panel's assessment of New Jersey's standards came out and Jackson thought it provided reason to lift the moratorium (PDF) on development, while also tightening the chromium standard to 20 parts per million. Kelman believes that move failed to sufficiently protect public health and was premature because a more comprehensive study on chromium was due to be completed by the National Toxicology Program later that year.
In August 2006, Jackson asserted in a press release about the Kiddie Kollege day care center that "inspectors moved in, took samples and shut it down" as soon as they discovered mercury.
But the New York Times reported shortly after that an internal memo showed the department had known of contamination at the site since 1994. New Jersey environment department inspectors found out that the building was being used as a day care center in April 2006, but didn't shut it down until that July.
Jeff Tittel, who heads the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, says Jackson isn't to blame for the Kiddie Kollege incident, and instead points a finger at New Jersey's former environmental commissioner for removing the site from the state's list of contaminated sites.
"Under Jackson, an inspector went out there on his own time, and found out that there was a day care center there," says Tittel. "Did it take longer than it should have? Maybe, but the government doesn't always move as quickly as we would like it to."
Many prominent New Jersey environmental advocates say that Jackson inherited most of the department's problems from previous commissioners, and from staff cuts made by former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, who went on to become EPA administrator herself under President Bush.
"The department in charge of hazardous waste used to have 270 people, now they are down to 150," says Tittel.
Jackson's staffing decisions have also been criticized by PEER. The watchdog group points to her 2006 appointment (PDF) of Nancy Wittenberg, a former New Jersey Builders Association lobbyist, as the Assistant Commissioner for Environmental Regulation as an example of Jackson's ties to industry.
"Her extreme positions and statements as a lobbyist raise legitimate questions about her judgment and capacity to fairly and objectively administer environmental laws," said then-PEER employee Bill Wolfe in a media announcement made at the time of Wittenberg's appointment.
In an effort to determine just how much leverage industry lobbyists have in Jackson's department, PEER filed a petition to get the department to give the public information on its meetings with lobbyists, but the department immediately rejected the petition.
Jackson's supporters ardently defend her record and place much of New Jersey's environmental problems on Gov. Corzine. They say that while Corzine has offered lofty rhetoric about environmental goals, he has not helped Jackson accomplish them. Jackson left the department to take a job as Corzine's chief of staff at the beginning of this month.
"Lisa Jackson has been forced to work without the resources or the leadership at the top to let her do what she wanted to do," says Amy Goldsmith, the state policy director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation. "Corzine just has different priorities, and if the leader isn't willing to lead, it is hard for somebody that's been appointed to take the reins."