Coal, Executive Insight, Generation, Natural Gas, Policy & Regulation

Senators explain their votes for or against McCarthy to lead EPA

After months of gridlock, boycotts and missed votes, Boston native and veteran regulator Gina McCarthy was approved to take over as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy was confirmed by a 59-40 vote July 18.

McCarthy was asked more than 1,100 questions during her Senate confirmation hearings, including 1,075 from Republican senators and more than 600 from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

Vitter is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the EPA. Vitter said the EPA’s “overreach” has been “historic” during the Obama administration. The Louisiana senator blocked a vote on McCarthy’s nomination in May.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), another member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said McCarthy would continue to enforce Obama administration policies that are destructive to the economy.

“The Obama administration has a history of putting forth cabinet officials who will advance his liberal agenda through administrative regulations, skirting the will of Congress, and Gina McCarthy will now be a key player in this,” Inhofe said. “The president is waging an unprecedented war on fossil fuels that will destroy millions of jobs and prevent America from becoming energy independent.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said McCarthy is a worthy choice to lead the EPA because of her history of working with the industry, as well as Republicans and Democrats.

“During her time as an assistant administrator at EPA, she crafted several key health standards, including the first-ever mercury standard for power plants which is expected to prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 130,000 asthma attacks, and provide as much as $240 million in health benefits each year,” Whitehouse said. “As EPA begins the work of implementing President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon pollution, I know her expertise and commitment to public health will be a great asset, and I congratulate her on being confirmed.”

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who voted against McCarthy’s confirmation, said business owners, farmer, ranchers and other constituents live with EPA regulations every day, adding that the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

“Far too many federal regulations, many from the EPA, hinder Idaho’s businesses and economy. More often than not, these regulations provide little benefit to their intended purposes. During her nomination process, I had hoped to be convinced that Ms. McCarthy would move the agency in a different direction, but her previous actions and testimony before the EPW committee proved this would not be the case.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the lone Democrat who voted against McCarthy’s confirmation, said he found her to be earnest, friendly and pragmatic, but could not vote for her because of her role in enacting unreasonable regulations.

“I voted against Gina McCarthy to be the next Administrator of the EPA, but my fight is not with her. My fight is with President Obama and the EPA, the regulatory agency that has consistently placed unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards on energy production, rather than focus on efforts to develop a domestic all-of-the-above energy strategy for the future,” Manchin said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the EPA plays an important role in protecting air and water quality, adding that environmental quality is essential to the American economy.

“I spoke with Ms. McCarthy at length in March 2013 about several issues affecting Maine and was pleased with her responsiveness and familiarity with the scope of concerns facing New England states. In past dealings with Ms. McCarthy in her current post, I have been impressed with her willingness to listen and seek input from a variety of stakeholders, including industry, and for taking a more pragmatic approach to rulemaking,” Collins said.

Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, said in a statement that recent EPA estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas industry have been dramatically reduced.

“Gina McCarthy and I have a constructive working relationship based on open and honest dialogue that will continue as we work towards the shared goal of improving the data available on the environmental impact of natural gas. The natural gas industry is actively engaged in a fact-based dialogue about building a clean and secure energy future for our nation,” McCurdy said.

Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn congratulated McCarthy on her Senate confirmation, adding that EEI worked with her in her previous position as administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation where she served since 2009.

“A number of significant electric power industry issues are on EPA’s regulatory agenda right now, including the pending Section 316(b) rule for cooling water intake structures, coal ash regulations, and new source performance standards for new and existing power plants. As these rulemakings proceed, I am pleased EPA now has in place a permanent Administrator. Gina’s confirmation and experience bring greater certainty to the agency at this critical time,” Kuhn said.

Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said the ACCCE agreed with McCarthy that coal has a part to play in America’s energy future.

“ACCCE looks forward to a constructive working relationship with the EPA under Administrator McCarthy’s leadership. Coal fuels nearly 40 percent of America’s electricity, and it will continue to play a vital role in our nation’s energy future,” Duncan said in a statement. “To date, the coal-fueled electricity industry has invested more than $110 billion in technologies that have reduced emissions by nearly 90 percent. The industry will invest another $100 billion to develop clean coal technology over the next 15 years. We are hopeful that Administrator McCarthy’s tenure at EPA will set the agency on a more balanced path that recognizes America’s continued need for coal and the importance of clean coal technology.”

Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), released the following statement on McCarthy’s confirmation:

“NRECA and electric co-ops across the country look forward to working with Gina McCarthy. We appreciate her history of engaging in substantive debate on the issues and reaching out to electric co-ops as we work toward scientifically sound and cost-effective policies that balance the interests of consumers and protect the environment,” said Emerson.