Most of the news coverage in recent days, understandably has focused on the Markey climate hearings and speculation about when his subcommittee will actually start voting.  And now there is scrutiny of efforts by “moderate” House Democrats to gut the Waxman-Markey bill on behalf of Duke Energy, the Edison Electric Institute and other forces of darkness who assert with a straight face that “the consumer” is their only concern.

Across the Capitol, however, another important mini-drama is playing out. There, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has recommended approval of the very qualified Gina McCarthy, the environmental commissioner from Connecticut, to become head of the U.S. EPA air pollution control division. 

But two Republicans, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, have said they’ll try to “hold” the McCarthy nomination — preventing a formal vote by the full Senate. The reason?  They don’t like EPA’s proposed “endangerment” finding (that greenhouse gases pose a threat to health and the environment.)

The Senate leadership ought to put a quick stop to this nonsense.  It’s one thing for them to sit back and watch their House colleagues agonize over the climate bill. 

But the EPA can’t function properly without having someone in charge of the air division.  We still have a huge air pollution problem, as the American Lung Association noted this week in its annual “State of the Air” report. McCarthy was a good choice, and she ought to be permitted to do her job.  And the way the special interests are mobilizing to undermine the very good intentions of Congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, we’re going to need the best minds possible at EPA to make some progress on climate as well as “conventional” air pollutants like smog, soot and mercury.