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Gina McCarthy has the skills to help science prevail over ideology.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Climate-change skeptics in the U.S. Senate are eager to grill Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency in his second term. There could hardly be higher recommendation for the job.
The president pledged in his State of the Union address to bypass the gridlocked Congress and use the administration’s regulatory powers to address a planetary threat.
All that stands in the way are the more immediate pain of economic displacement, push-back from fossil fuel industries and the lingering effects of the Republican Party’s rhetorical war on unpleasant science.
McCarthy talks like a woman who will relish the fight. And make friends along the way.
Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming — all conservatives from energy-producing states — sit on the Environment and Public Works Committee that will vet the nominee.
They are harsh critics of the Obama EPA, where, as an assistant administrator, McCarthy was a key player in setting tighter limits on soot and mercury emissions from power plants — to the great benefit of public health. A lot of Americans are breathing easier thanks to her success.
She’s a straight-ahead bureaucrat who gets things done (“I didn’t go to Washington to sit around and wait for congressional action,” she told a University of Massachusetts audience in 2010. “Never done that before, and don’t plan to in the future.”)
Still, Republicans have issued no warnings, at least not yet, about blocking her nomination. Perhaps that is because she listens, both to the environmental science and to the businesses that will be affected by regulatory changes, and is a pragmatic problem-solver.
She goes by the data, not ideological passions, according to lobbyists on both sides of the divide. That will make her an effective administrator at a time when the need for action has been met by stolid intransigence and denial.
McCarthy says she likes the give-and-take of policymaking, and she is known for her great sense of humor. In a town where political fights have become zero-sum games and most of the laughs are unintended, she could improve the atmosphere. Another reason to look forward to her Senate confirmation.
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