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July 19, 2013
Gina McCarthy voted in as EPA Administrator

Several top industry organizations extended a welcome to Gina McCarthy, who won Senate approval as the new EPA administrator by a 59 to 40 vote.  In statements, the National Mining Association (NMA), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the American Chemistry Council (ACC), and the American Petroleum Institute (API) praised McCarthy’s experience and expressed a willingness to cooperate with her on major upcoming rules.  

The EEI, whose member energy companies may be targeted for regulation more than any other sector, was particularly enthusiastic about the vote.  EPA actions that will directly affect the industry include the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 316(b) rule for cooling water intake structures, coal ash regulations, and New Source Performance Standards governing air emissions from new and existing fossil fuel power plants.

“As these rulemakings proceed, I am pleased EPA now has in place a permanent Administrator,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn.  “Gina’s confirmation and experience bring greater certainty to the agency at this critical time.  In the past, we have worked closely with Gina in her role as Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation on several rulemakings, including the recent rule on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.  Gina has a keen understanding of the challenges facing our industry, and we have had a long and constructive relationship.”

Bipartisan support

McCarthy’s approval comes over 4 months after President Obama nominated her to head the Agency that has served as a whipping post for Republicans who believe the administration is strangling job growth with regulatory overreach.  In fact, six Republican senators voted for McCarthy—Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and John McCain (AZ).  One Democrat, Joe Manchin (WV), sided with opponents.

 “I recently met with Ms. McCarthy and I found her to be earnest, friendly, pragmatic and incredibly intelligent,” said Manchin in a statement.  “She is a talented scientist who has dedicated her life to public service, serving under Democrats and Republicans alike.  However, in her current position as EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, she has been responsible for overseeing some of EPA’s most unreasonable and restrictive proposals.  Because of this, I do not believe she is the leader who we are looking for to make this all-of-the-above plan a reality.” 

All eyes on climate change

As a top coal-producing state, West Virginia may be hit particularly hard by EPA greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations that target the use of coal in power plants.  In his recently released Climate Action Plan, President Obama made clear his intention to move forward on those rules for both new and existing coal-fired plants.  It will be up to McCarthy to negotiate with industry in the development of those rules and then present them to the public. 

“Over the past four years, I have valued Gina’s counsel and I look forward to having her in my Cabinet as we work to slow the effects of climate change and leave a cleaner environment for future generations,” said the president in a statement. 

Climate change not the only challenge

While McCarthy’s actions on climate change and how they affect the economy and job growth will likely be scrutinized most intensely by her congressional critics, the new administrator will also grapple with other major challenges, including:

  • Revision of the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS);
  • Meeting the statutory requirements of the renewable fuels standard program;
  • Pushing through reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act;
  • Clarifying the meaning of waters of the United States subject to federal regulation;
  • Implementing other controversial CWA programs affecting concentrated animal feedlot operations and stormwater discharges; and
  • Ferrying the EPA through the non-stop barrage of lawsuits from stakeholders who are certain to challenge any major regulatory action the Agency takes or fails to take. 

 

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