Yotta Know Nominees – Part 2: Gina McCarthy

Yotta Know Nominees – or YKN – is my three-part series focusing on President Obama’s recent nominations to key positions in his Cabinet and the federal government.

On February 6, REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell was nominated as Secretary of the Department of the Interior to replace Ken Salazar. On March 4, President Obama nominated EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy to head the Agency, replacing Lisa Jackson. In the same White House ceremony, MIT physicist Ernest Moniz was nominated for Secretary of the Department of Energy, to succeed Steven Chu.

Once confirmed, the decisions these three individuals make are certain to have an impact on Garfield County, where we feel the effects of energy production, air & water pollution, and climate change on a daily basis. It’s well worth our time to get to know the nominees.

Gina McCarthy recentPart 2:  Gina McCarthy – nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

If we have any hope of beginning to clean up our water quality and air quality after more than ten years of oil & gas drilling activity, leadership in the form of stricter regulations must be forthcoming from the EPA. As the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation since 2009, McCarthy has worked on clean air rules and earned the title of the President’s “green quarterback.” Because of her 25 years of service in state and federal government much is already known about McCarthy. In fact if you google her nomination, you will find hundreds of articles. This National Journal article condenses her background for us:  4 Things to Know About Gina McCarthy, Obama’s Pick to Head EPA.

Naturally, in Garfield County we want to know more about McCarthy’s stand on climate, energy, and air & water quality. I sorted through the chatter to bring you some articles that focus on her recent work within the EPA.

Obama Nominee for EPA Has Track Record of Safeguarding Health and the Environment by NRDC President Frances Beinecke

Gina McCarthy, Obama’s ‘Green Quarterback,’ Has a History of Working With Industry

Gina McCarthy: Strong Climate Credentials Plus a Sense of Humor

Gina McCarthy for EPA could be Obama’s most significant nominee

In the past four years, McCarthy has demonstrated a commitment to address climate change by improving air quality through reducing emissions across the board. Her past efforts likely make her the most controversial of the President’s three nominees.

Praise for McCarthy’s nomination has flowed swift and strong from environmental groups.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued a statement which says in part:

“Assistant Administrator McCarthy has a strong record of protecting the health and safety of millions of Americans by limiting dangerous pollution in our air and supporting programs that help get America’s kids outside.

“As head of the EPA’s clean air division, McCarthy forged bipartisan coalitions to finalize strong clean air safeguards and historic fuel efficiency standards, and as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, she led the state’s ‘No Child Left Inside’ campaign.

“… we look forward to working with Assistant Administrator McCarthy on critical issues such as prioritizing environmental justice and finalizing additional clean air protections, including carbon pollution standards for new and existing sources and Tier 3 cleaner tailpipe standards.”

Frank O’Donnell with Clean Air Watch said on their blog:

“… Clean Air Watch enthusiastically applauds this decision. Every American is – or will soon be – breathing cleaner air because of McCarthy. As the head of EPA’s air division, she spearheaded vital public health protections, including historic mercury controls for coal-fired power plants, tougher new air quality standards for fine-particle soot, and landmark greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks. Breathers need McCarthy now more than ever as EPA prepares to tackle critical air quality challenges, including the need for smog-fighting lower-sulfur gasoline, updated national ozone air standards and greenhouse gas standards for both new and existing power plants. Dealing effectively with climate change is the challenge of a lifetime.”

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp issued this statement:

“As head of EPA’s national air office, Ms. McCarthy led the development of historic national emission standards for the mercury discharged from power plants, and helped forge new greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles. She is well known for listening and responding to the concerns of both environmental advocates and industry stakeholders, and for pursuing a regulatory approach that is flexible, reasonable and cost-effective.”

As expected, reactions from the fossil fuel industry have been brief and few. American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity President and CEO Robert M. “Mike” Duncan issued this terse statement:

“We congratulate Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy on her nomination to be the next EPA Administrator, and we hope for a more constructive working relationship with the EPA under her leadership. We hope that if she is confirmed she can put EPA on a more balanced path that recognizes America’s continued need for coal, and the importance of clean coal technology.”

American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard took the McCarthy nomination as an opportunity to criticize the EPA saying:

“We congratulate Gina McCarthy on her nomination to head the EPA. President Obama says his top priority is creating American jobs, and we will continue working with the EPA and the administration to help avoid jeopardizing that goal. The problem is that EPA, in many cases, is not proposing regulations that meet this goal.”

For more endorsements and denunciations read:  EPA Nominee Gina McCarthy: Science Above Politics or Warrior Against Affordable Energy?

McCarthy is expected to face to a contentious confirmation hearing on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Top Republicans, Sen. David Vitter (LA) and senior member Sen. John Barrasso (WY) are champions of oil & gas and coal production and view the EPA as job-killers. When McCarthy was nominated for her current position at EPA, Sen. Barrasso held up her nomination for two months because he believed she would move toward regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, which she did.  Recently, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) expressed concern at the prolonged difficulty Shell had in getting permits to exceed air pollution limits when it began drilling operations in the Arctic.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has not yet scheduled Gina McCarthy’s confirmation hearing, however it will be posted on the events calendar at the Committee website.

Part 1:  Sally Jewell — nominee for Interior Department Secretary

Part 3:  Ernest Moniz — nominee for Energy Secretary

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