President Barack Obama signaled his willingness to tackle climate change with his pick of Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, one of three major appointments he announced Monday.
A 25-year veteran of environmental policy and politics, McCarthy has worked for Republicans and Democrats, including Obama’s presidential rival, Mitt Romney, who tapped her to help draft state plans for curbing pollution. Along with McCarthy, Obama nominated MIT nuclear physicist Ernie Moniz to lead the Energy Department and Wal-Mart’s Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head the budget office.
McCarthy, 58, a Boston native, has led the EPA’s air pollution division since 2009, ushering in a host of new rules targeting air pollution from power plants, automobiles and oil and gas production.
In nominating McCarthy as the nation’s top environmental official, Obama is promoting a climate change champion at a time when he has renewed his commitment to address global warming and the agency is contemplating a host of new rules that could help achieve that. But McCarthy will have to balance the administration’s ambitions with a dwindling budget: Congress has cut EPA’s budget by 18 percent over the last two years, and the automatic budget cuts that went into effect Friday will hinder the agency’s energy efficiency programs and climate research.
Her nomination is all but guaranteed to spark criticism from Republicans, who charge that the agency is killing jobs and undermining the coal industry. Conservatives immediately stressed her role in what they view would as destructive policies from EPA.
“McCarthy will continue the regulatory attack on oil, coal and natural gas with the result that Americans will experience increasing energy costs and high unemployment rates,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research.
Moniz, 68, was a former Energy Department undersecretary under Clinton. He’s advised Obama on numerous energy topics, including how to handle the country’s nuclear waste and the natural gas produced by the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing.
Burwell is Washington veteran, having served in several posts during the Clinton administration, including deputy OMB director. She currently heads the Wal-Mart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the retail giant, and previously served as president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program.