Obama EPA pick gets mixed reviews from energy, chemical sectors

04 March 2013 18:19  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--President Barack Obama’s nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drew mixed reviews on Monday among US energy and chemical interests, with some charging that McCarthy will pursue “a war on reliable energy”.

Obama named McCarthy to succeed the outgoing Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator, saying he was “confident that she’s going to do an outstanding job leading the EPA”.

McCarthy now serves as assistant administrator in charge of the agency’s office of air and radiation, and in that position she has frequently clashed with energy and petrochemical officials over the EPA’s broad moves to limit industrial emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

But McCarthy’s nomination drew a measured response from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) on Monday, with the council calling her “a dedicated environmental professional with a wealth of experience”.

The ACC noted that as head of the agency’s air and radiation office, “McCarthy has been responsible for several rules that have important impacts on our industry”.

“In our experience, she has listened carefully to all stakeholders and based her decisions on sound science,” the council said. 

That is fairly high praise for an agency that industry officials and even members of Congress have accused of "scientific misconduct".

The council said it is looking forward to continuing our effort with EPA to promote reliable science and achieve credible policy results”.

However, the American Petroleum Institute (API) was less welcoming, with API president Jack Gerard offering congratulations to McCarthy but noting that in his view EPA has pursued polices that conflict with hopes for US jobs growth.

“We hope that McCarthy shares the president’s stated vision for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” Gerard said, “and will support only sound EPA regulations that reduce potential adverse impacts on employment and energy costs while protecting the environment.”

But the Institute for Energy Research (IER), an energy industry think-tank, charged that McCarthy’s nomination “is a clear indication that the administration will continue its war on affordable energy”.

IER president Thomas Pyle argued that “Throughout her career, McCarthy has implemented polices that attempt to constrain the use of reliable energy sources”, adding that she “has played a large role in the shuttering of coal-fired power plants around the country”.

“It appears the president is rewarding these efforts by increasing her ability to implement an ideological and political agenda,” Pyle said.

He said that as head of EPA, McCarthy could be expected to “continue the regulatory attack on oil, coal and natural gas, with the result that Americans will experience increasing energy costs and high unemployment rates”.

In sharp contrast, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) described McCarthy as “a worthy candidate and deserving of the nomination”.

SOCMA vice president Bill Allmond said: “Although we may not always agree on policy issues, we believe Ms McCarthy has an understanding of issues impacting specialty chemical manufacturers”.

Allmond said that in earlier meetings with McCarthy, SOCMA staff and member firms “were impressed with her candour and sincerity … and her desire to better understand the regulatory burdens” that face the chemicals industry.

Although McCarthy is likely to face some tough questioning when her nomination comes up for confirmation hearings in the Senate, it is expected that she will be approved.

McCarthy has an advantage in that she was previously vetted and approved by the senate for her current job at the EPA, and the senate tends to give consent to nominees who have substantial previous agency experience.  She has been in her current position since 2009.

By: Joe Kamalick
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