After a long, drawn out period of deadlock the Senate finally confirmed Gina McCarthy as the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the EPA is not directly tied to energy as the Department of Energy is, it still has strong ties to the energy sector in terms of regulating pollution and hazardous sites, and through programs like Energy Star.
Though McCarthy, previously assistant administrator of the U.S. EPA from 2009 to 2013, was nominated at the same time as DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz was in March, McCarthy’s nomination was upheld by Senate Republicans in the Environment and Public Works Committee. They boycotted a vote in the committee in May, contending that the EPA hadn’t responded to certain questions they had about McCarthy.
The Republicans asked 1,100 questions of McCarthy, delaying her nomination. However, yesterday, as part of the recently announced plans for Senate Republicans to stop filibustering seven executive branch nominees and allow up or down votes, McCarthy was voted in. The news drew praise from many including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Edison Electric Institute, which ofttimes find themselves at opposite ends of the energy issue, since EEI is largely a utility thinktank.
“During a distinguished 25-year career in public administration, Gina McCarthy has shown, time after time, an uncanny ability to work in a bipartisan manner to solve very difficult and complex problems,” wrote SIEA CEO Rhone Resch. “She has an outstanding record when it comes to protecting both our environment and our economy.…We believe Ms. McCarthy will be an extraordinary leader, and SEIA applauds President Obama for his wisdom in nominating her, and the Senate for confirming her. We look forward to working with Administrator McCarthy on a wide range of issues which are important to our nation and environment.”
Likewise EEI President Tom Kuhn issued a less praiseworthy roll-up-your sleeves and get back to work statement. “A number of significant electric power industry issues are on EPA’s regulatory agenda right now,” he said. “As these rulemakings proceed, I am pleased EPA now has in place a permanent Administrator. Gina’s confirmation and experience bring greater certainty to the agency at this critical time.”
“Gina has a keen understanding of the challenges facing our industry, and we have had a long and constructive relationship,” Kuhn said. “We will continue to work with her and her team to ensure that EPA considers the environmental benefits, as well as the energy and economic impacts—particularly on customers—of each rulemaking that affects our industry.”