Obama Picks new EPA Chief
An anti-coal, global warming advocate, Gina McCarthy, has been tapped to run the EPA. McCarthy, who currently heads up the clean air shop at the agency, is a pick sure to please the greens.
As head of EPA's air office, McCarthy has been at the forefront of the agency’s fight to enact greenhouse gas regulations on sources like vehicle tailpipes and power plants. Those efforts are expected to kick up as the agency attempts to carry out the pledges for serious action on climate change that Obama hinted at in last month’s Inauguration speech.
While McCarthy has often sparred with Republican lawmakers at hearings, she also brings a bipartisan background, including stints working for past GOP governors like Mitt Romney.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told POLITICO earlier this year that McCarthy would make a “great” EPA administrator. “She is strong. She’s knowledgeable. She, there would be no transition required, and I just like Gina because she’s straight from the shoulder — good person.”
McCarthy was long seen as the favorite for the job, over other potential candidates like acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe or former Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire.
A McCarthy nomination would likely face opposition from Republicans, over the agency's actions in general and the role she played in directing them. And while business groups generally see her as an EPA official they can work with, coal producers and owners of coal-fired power plants are worried about potential EPA greenhouse-gas rules.
Ms. McCarthy has led the EPA's clean-air division for the past four years and has pushed through some of Mr. Obama's most significant environmental rules, including higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars.
She has already been a central player in developing greenhouse-gas rules proposed last year that would effectively rule out new coal-fired power plants using existing commercially viable technology.
The agency in the next year or two is likely to decide what to do about existing coal-fired plants, the largest stationary source of greenhouse-gas emissions. Critics say such rules could threaten the reliability of the power grid and raise consumer electricity prices.
Last year, Ms. McCarthy said the risks from climate change were "substantial and far-reaching," a message that has been amplified by the president in his second inaugural and State of the Union addresses. Mr. Obama said at the State of the Union that he would direct his administration to tackle climate change through executive action if, as expected, Congress fails to pass legislation cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.
Will McCarthy force the closure of coal-fired plants that don't meet the updated standards? It's a question being asked by both coal and power companies, as well as consumers who could see skyrocketing rates for electricity if the EPA shuts down the 300+ plants at issue. The hysterics would have us cut our emissions back to 1990's levels as called for in the now inoperative Kyoto accords. If she views the threat of global warming as "substantial," just how far is she and the president willing to go?
McCarthy's confirmation hearing will not be easy -- or pleasant.