Americans got a new public health champion today when the Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy as the new Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency. The vote was delayed for months by GOP grandstanding and political obstruction, leaving the agency in charge of shielding our families from pollution without a confirmed leader for the longest period in EPA history. Now common sense has finally prevailed, and lawmakers finally endorsed an experienced and pragmatic defender of public health safeguards.
McCarthy’s confirmation couldn’t come soon enough. Last month President Obama released a robust climate plan that calls on the EPA to honor its Clean Air Act duty and set limits on the carbon pollution coming from power plants. These plants are the single largest source of global warming pollution in our nation, and if we want to protect our communities from the extreme weather and dirty air brought on by climate change, we have to clean up these plants.
Gina McCarthy has the expertise to get the job done.
When she served as the top environmental official for Republican Governor Jodi Rell in Connecticut and Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, she helped launch the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to curb carbon pollution from power plants in nine northeastern states.
In 2009, the Senate easily confirmed McCarthy to head the EPA’s Clean Air division. Working with EPA Lisa Jackson, McCarthy proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. She also worked with automakers, labor unions, consumer groups, and environmental organizations to help craft historic clean car standards that will cut carbon pollution from new cars in half and save drivers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump by 2025.
McCarthy understands that cutting carbon can generate economic growth. In its first three years, for instance, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative created $1.6 billion in economic benefits, saved consumers more than $1.3 billion in energy costs, and created 16,000 job-years.
“If you take a look at what's recently happened with Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” McCarthy said in February. “You will realize that there are tremendous opportunities to address climate change in ways that build the economy, that grow jobs, that you can articulate, that make sense to every individual who works in those communities.”
President Obama’s climate plan will create even more economic opportunities. But fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress claim that curbing carbon pollution will kill jobs and thwart growth. They said the same thing when the EPA proposed removing lead from gasoline, reducing acid rain, and phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals. Every time they were proven wrong, and they will be again.
Indeed, NRDC just released a new report showing that carbon pollution standards will create a net increase of 210,000 jobs in 2020. Job growth would come mainly from upgrading the efficiency of our homes and offices. That means more electricians, heating and air conditioning installers, carpenters, construction equipment operators, roofers, insulation specialists, and building inspectors will find work—work that will help reduce household electric bills.
Carbon limits are good for our economy and our families, and that is why so many Americans support them. A recently released Georgetown University poll found that 87 percent of Americans want the EPA to address global warming pollution, including 78 percent of Republicans. Just 13 percent of respondents think Congress should block the EPA from setting limits on carbon.
Poll after poll shows that Americans want climate action. Now Administrator Gina McCarthy is poised to take action. By issuing carbon limits, she can help defuse the threat of climate change, usher in a cleaner, more modern fleet of power plants, and generate economic growth at the same time.