Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, vowed “common sense” steps to tackle climate change, and said those actions can be taken without undermining the economy.
McCarthy called global warming “one of the greatest challenges of our generation,” in testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She said it’s led to costly investments by cities and towns to counter the effects.
“The economic exposure associated with climate change is quite large,” McCarthy, 58, said at a hearing on her nomination. “We believe we have opportunities in mitigating greenhouse gases in the future.”
Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican countered that Congress had rejected climate-change legislation, and the EPA was acting to circumvent “the will of the American people.”
McCarthy, if confirmed, would take over an agency that Republicans have criticized over pollution limits that they say will cost jobs and hurt the economy. The Republican-led House passed legislation last year to reverse a series of EPA rules. At the same time EPA is central to enacting Obama’s pledge to counter the carbon-dioxide emissions scientists blame for causing global warming.
McCarthy is assistant administrator for air pollution, an office that has proposed a regulation that would bar construction of coal-fired power plants that lack carbon-capture technology. McCarthy said the agency is now weighing more than 2.7 million comments on this proposal and will soon issue its final regulation.
Republicans such as Senator David Vitter of Louisiana also pressed McCarthy on what they said are lapses the agency had in providing information to the public and Congress over the past four years. They say that former administrator Lisa Jackson used an alias e-mail address in order to try to avoid public disclosure.
Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, the head of the committee, said an alias was used by other EPA administrators as well in order to cope with a flood of outside e-mails.