President Barack Obama March 6 nominated Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy for the top post at EPA. Following the President’s mentions of climate change in his second inaugural and recent State of the Union addresses, the nomination of Gina McCarthy as EPA administrator is seen by environmental advocates as another indication that the president is serious about prioritizing scientific solutions to environmental, public health and climate challenges.
Climate change is the most important environmental health problem facing the children of the United States and the world, said Dr. Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center. He commended President Obama on the choice of McCarthy, saying, “Gina McCarthy has demonstrated she can put science above politics. [She] is clearly a leader in the protection of children from environmental health threats.”
In her recent role at EPA as the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, and in her roles as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and as former Gov. Mitt Romney’s energy and climate advisor in Massachusetts, McCarthy has worked closely with environmental advocates and industry leaders and has earned the trust of both sides of the aisle. McCarthy was confirmed to her current position at EPA by the Senate on a bipartisan basis in 2009.
“When you go into a meeting with Gina, you know where she stands on the environment, but she’s very pragmatic about the means to achieving an end,” says Stephen Harper, director of Environment and Energy Policy at Intel, adding, “We think she’s somebody the industry can work with on problem-solving.”
In her current EPA post, McCarthy helped to design and implement one of the EPA’s greatest public health accomplishments, the new Mercury and Air Toxics standards. EPA estimates the standards will avert up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every. McCarthy also oversaw landmark standards for reducing carbon pollution from vehicles and new power plants.
“Our working relationship with Gina McCarthy has been outstanding,” commented Tom Buis, CEO, Growth Energy. “She’s very upfront, she’s very direct, but more importantly, she’s willing to listen to all the different stakeholders in the debate. I don’t know anyone in the industry who doesn’t have the utmost respect for her.”
Recognizes Important Role of States
It is her experience working with states, however, that makes McCarthy’s choice to lead the EPA appealing to many.
"Gina's experience working with states makes her an excellent choice to become the next EPA administrator," says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the non-partisan Georgetown Climate Center. "McCarthy worked at the state level for Republican administrations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and she has demonstrated a willingness to work with states at the EPA."
At her first major public appearance after press reports identified McCarthy as President Obama’s choice to lead EPA, McCarthy shared some of EPA’s agenda and talked at length about the important role of states during the Feb. 21 state-federal workshop on climate and energy policy, which was hosted by the Georgetown Climate Center.
In her remarks, McCarthy admitted that EPA must work closely with states in order to meet the agency’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.
“It’s very exciting to me to see that some of the programs at EPA are being as successful as they have been in working with the states, in incentivizing opportunities, at building tools, seeing the states run with those issues, understanding how important climate change is to mayors across this country,” McCarthy said. “It’s an exciting time, and one in which I know that we will find ways to collaborate more and more together.”
Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters called McCarthy’s nomination “a slam dunk for the environment.,” adding, “She works across the aisle, she’s a straight shooter… we want to make sure that message gets out loud and clear.”
Economic prosperity does not have to be at odds with environmental protection, said David Levine, CEO and founder, American Sustainable Business Council, and McCarthy’s nomination reinforces that fact. “She is an advocate for crafting environmental policies to increase market certainties; for us, that means growing business and creating jobs.”
Bill Becker, executive director, National Association of Clean Air Agencies, described McCarthy as “brutally honest,” adding, “She makes things happen.” She is, he simply said, “the perfect choice.”