In her first public appearance as U.S. EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy said the agency will "reinvent how we view the business of climate change" by working with the industry to boost the economy while implementing President Obama's climate change plan.
McCarthy, speaking this morning at Harvard Law School, said the Climate Action Plan was an opportunity to "bend the curve" and could "fuel the complementary goals of turning America into a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing."
"For too long we've been focused on this false choice. It's not a choice between the health of our children and the health of our economy," McCarthy said at an event sponsored by Harvard's Environmental Law Program. "The truth is we need to embrace cutting carbon pollution as a way to spark business innovation. We need to cut carbon pollution to grow jobs. We need to cut carbon pollution to strengthen the economy.
"Let's approach this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake," she added.
McCarthy, who was confirmed two weeks ago after a months-long wait, is tasked with a series of complicated rulemakings in the president's second term, headlined by crafting regulations that will limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants within the next two years.
Although McCarthy called it a "wicked cool exciting time for me," those future rules are already getting blowback from EPA's traditional opponents, who say the plan is another "war on coal" that will penalize existing power plants and bar new coal plants from being built. A letter from 23 House Republicans last week said the plan would "take the unprecedented step of imposing an energy tax by regulatory fiat" (E&E Daily, July 24).
But McCarthy said that her EPA will work with businesses, states and local partners as it moves forward on the rules, making sure that they can be written in a way that will help the industry and economy.
She drew a comparison to the administration's work in lowering fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles in 2011, which came as a result of negotiations with automakers, environmental groups and government officials. The result, McCarthy said, was a plan that all sides welcomed and has been implemented "very well so far," with the auto industry predicted to add 35,000 jobs in 2013.
That's the "game plan" that EPA will use as it reduces emissions from the power sector and implements other controversial clean air rules, she said.
"It's a chance to harness the American entrepreneur spirit, developing new technologies and creating new jobs, while at the same time reducing carbon pollution to help our children and their children," McCarthy said.
Doing so, she said, could also help deflect some congressional opposition, including "getting over the hump of proposed 33 percent reduction" in the House appropriations bill, which also includes several riders that would block EPA actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
McCarthy this week will launch an "aggressive regional travel schedule" to talk up the climate plan, according to a White House memo. That will include speeches, media appearances and participation in stakeholder meetings to tout the benefits of the plan, as well as talks with state officials to "formulate smart, common-sense and pragmatic solutions to reduction carbon pollution" (E&E Daily, July 29).
Other administration officials -- including Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack -- are also participating in the summer push to promote the plan.
White House climate change adviser Heather Zichal said this month that the administration would work with partners in states and the utility sector on the rulemaking, saying that "we recognize the opportunity" of the emissions reductions (Greenwire, July 18).
McCarthy has a long reputation of working across party lines and engaging with business groups in crafting rules, a quality that helped her recruit several Republican votes and some business support in her confirmation (E&E Daily, July 19).
Although the focus of the speech was on the national and international climate change effort, McCarthy took time to assure listeners that there was "no intention of leaving behind the environmental justice" community. She said that the agency would "look at who's not winning" and focus attention on communities that will bear the brunt of climate change.
McCarthy, who had to sit through a record-long 136-day nomination process, also joked that the appointment was an "honor of a lifetime ... and that's a very good thing, because I swear it took two lifetimes for me to get confirmed."