greenhouse gas emissions will have ‘devastating impacts’ on the coal
industry. But EPA chief Gina McCarthy disagrees.
fails to pass a stopgap spending measure by the Oct. 1 start of the
new budget year, “it will mean that EPA effectively shuts down with
only a core group of individuals who are there in the event of a
Given the agency’s role enforcing laws that protect the environment,
Administrator McCarthy added, “I don’t think anyone sees that as
optimal for the United States to have EPA not fully up and running,”
she said at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters.
The EPA chief defended new rules the agency released last week that
would set the first national limits on heat-trapping carbon pollution
from existing power plants. To meet the new standards, coal-fired
plants would have to install expensive new technology to capture a
portion of their carbon dioxide emissions and bury them underground.
Experts say new gas-fired plans could meet the proposed standards
without new technology.
The rules triggered a storm of protest from coal-related companies and
their political supporters. In a statement, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of
West Virginia said the regulations “will have devastating impacts to
the coal industry and our economy.” Speaking on the Senate floor,
minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky called the rules, “the
latest administration salvo in its never ending war on coal — a war
against the very people who provide power and energy for our country,”
Investor’s Business Daily editorialized that the rules were “part of
an ideologically driven fight to tear the capitalist heart out of
When asked about the criticism, McCarthy said, “This is not an energy
policy statement, this is not an ideological statement. This is the
application of currently existing law in a way that it was supposed to
be applied.” She added: “We have very good history of 40 years
indicating that technology innovates, that businesses adjust, that we
can both reduce pollution and maintain the healthy economy that we are
all looking for.”
McCarthy also defended the EPA from criticism leveled by Rep. Lamar
Smith (R) of Texas, chairman of the House Science, Space, and
Technology Committee. In a Sept. 23 letter to the editor of The Boston
Globe, Representative Smith noted that the EPA had not provided the
committee with data from a 1993 Harvard University study on the link
between air pollution and health, something he said McCarthy promised
to do during congressional testimony.
“Virtually all Clean Air Act regulations under the Obama
administration have been justified based on these data. The American
people deserve all the facts and have a right to know whether the EPA
is using good science,” Smith wrote. He promised to protect any
personal health information. “If the EPA has nothing to hide, why not
make the information public?” he concluded.
“We are basing our decisions on world-renowned science that the
scientists themselves don’t seem to be questioning,” McCarthy said.
“The issue really is they are asking us to present basically 30 years
of science that deals with personal information and medical
confidential information that we don’t have, that we don’t own.” She
added that the EPA was “working through the issues.”
McCarthy was appointed to environmental posts in her home state of
Massachusetts by Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis and by GOP Gov. Mitt
Romney. She was later head of Connecticut’s EPA before President Obama
named her as assistant administrator of the EPA in 2009. She assumed
the top post this year.
When asked what she hoped to accomplish during her term, McCarthy
said: “My whole goal will be to try to explain the science and to do
what we are supposed to do under the law.”
“I do not intend to be the energy policy person,” she added. “I intend
to work collaboratively with the administration and with states to
really try to get the politics aside and do what I have always done at
the state level. I don’t care whether I am working for a Republican or
a Democrat. The science is the science. The law is the law. I want it
applied and we will make… progress moving forward.”