Today, President Obama announced that his nominee to replace Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA is Gina McCarthy. McCarthy, who currently manages the EPA’s Air and Radiation office, has played a critical role in developing and promoting renewable energy programs in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She has been lauded for her support of climate regulation, but her willingness to negotiate with big business has raised concern with some environmentalists.
In her previous position at the EPA, McCarthy helped to usher in major regulations that curbed mercury pollution and soft emissions from power plants. Her work in Massachusetts helped lead to a landmark Supreme Court case in 2007 that gave the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. She has also established strong connections with the business community, which could help usher her in to her new role.
“As assistant EPA administrator, Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing,” Obama said. “She’s earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She welcomes different points of views.”
During her time in Massachusetts and Connecticut, McCarthy was instrumental in passing air regulations for the sake of public health. Her actions also led to the shuttering of power plants that emitted greenhouse gasses that contributed to climate change. Many environmentalists see her pragmatism and reliance on a science-based standard as a good way to broker potential deals with those that oppose the EPA’s agenda. Delivering speeches without a prompter and with a sharp sense of humor, McCarthy has been known to win over skeptics with her blunt, personable style.
Criticism came from the Independent Women’s Forum, who said that McCarthy had enacted “some of the EPA’s most intrusive regulations” during her four years in office, and Republican Senator David Vitter (La) commented; “The EPA is in desperate need of a leader who will stop ignoring congressional information requests, hiding e-mails and more from the public, and relying on flawed science. McCarthy has been directly involved in much of that, but I hope she can reverse those practices with Lisa Jackson’s departure. I look forward to hearing answers from her on a number of key issues.”
On the other side of the isle, Democrat Barbara Boxer (Ca) was pleased with the choice, as were public health advocates S. William Becker and Frank O’Donnell. McCarthy has earned a reputation as someone who will negotiate with corporations – she revamped rules after protests by the American Chemistry Council and others – which has led to sharp remarks from environmentalists in the past.
As head of the EPA, McCarthy would face several tough regulatory issues, such as whether to impose greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants and tighten the nation’s smog standards. She will also undoubtedly be asked to make a recommendation on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project and take on officials from coal-producing states that may see her as a threat.