On Monday, President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to replace outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Chief Lisa Jackson.
Widely known as Obama’s “green quarterback,” McCarthy has helped shape landmark mercury and air toxics standards, along with greenhouse gas regulations, as the current head of the Office of Air and Radiation. In addition to serving at the EPA, she also worked under two Republican governors, including Mitt Romney. McCarthy helped implement strict standards slashing carbon and mercury pollution from the state’s “filthy five” coal-fired power plants when she served in Massachusetts.
Over her two-decade career, McCarthy has drawn unusual praise from Republican and energy-industry admirers — a tough feat at an agency that is often the polluters and their allies’ favorite target.
1. Former Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R):
Rell appointed McCarthy to lead Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection. “I have said all along that Connecticut’s next DEP commissioner must be a person of unquestioned vision, leadership, and commitment to the environment,” Rell said in a statement. “Gina has an outstanding record of accomplishment on key environmental issues.”
2. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.):
Inhofe supported a temporary hold on McCarthy’s confirmation in 2009. Even so, he eventually embraced her confirmation (granted, the climate-denier senator hoped the EPA would chart a different, more polluter-friendly course). “I supported Regina McCarthy’s nomination today because I think she possesses the knowledge, experience, and temperament to oversee a very important office at EPA,” Inhofe said in a statement.
3. House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chair John Shimkus (R-Ill.):
Shimkus is a sharp critic of the EPA, but praised how the air chief navigated the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule. “She was helpful in allowing that project,” Shimkus told E&E News. “It showed me, personally, some willingness to understand capital investment and assumption of risk.”
4. Former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio):
During McCarthy’s first confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Voinovich of Ohio said, “Ms. McCarthy brings over 20 years of experience as an environmental regulator at the local and state level. I know those experiences are going to serve her well in the new capacity. I’m comforted by the fact that you have state experience and as a result of that I think we’ll have a better understanding of … what the implications are … of the decisions you are going to be making on ordinary folks out in the states.”
5. Reagan EPA official and steel industry representative Charles Warren:
“At EPA, as a regulator, you’re always asking people to do things they don’t want to do,” said Warren, a top EPA official in the Reagan administration who now represents industries such as steel companies. “But Gina’s made an effort to reach out to industries while they’re developing regulations. She has a good reputation.”
6. American Electric Power:
The electric utility that depends heavily on coal was a major critic of clean air rules in Obama’s first term. But according to the National Journal, officials were still positive about McCarthy. “We talked about timing, technology, and cost,” AEP’s Vice President of Environmental Services John McManus said. “My sense is that Gina is listening, has an open mind, she wants to hear the concerns of the regulated sector.” He added, “Did she do all the things we thought would be best? No, but we do see that she’s trying to do things that would achieve regulatory balance.”
7. Alliance Of Automobile Manufacturers:
The vice president of the trade group said “she’s a pragmatic policymaker” with “aspirational environmental goals, but she accepts real-world economics.” Support from the trade group undermines a conservative critique of the EPA’s rule on greenhouse gas emissions for vehicles.
There are signs Senate Republicans will draw out the nomination regardless of McCarthy’s qualifications — simply because it is the EPA, an agency Republicans voted to abolish as recently as 2011. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the top Republican on Environment and Public Works, has already pressed McCarthy for more “transparency” regarding “the scientific methods used to base the EPA’s regulatory agenda.” Even so, McCarthy’s prior Senate confirmation in 2009 and wide-ranging support makes conservative opposition more difficult.
ThinkProgress War Room Senior Climate/Energy Researcher Tiffany Germain contributed research to this post.