Nominee To Head EPA Had Key Role in 2025 Gas-Mileage Rules

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Gina McCarthy, nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator

Gina McCarthy, nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator

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It's long been known that Lisa Jackson, the current administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would step down now that President Obama is in his second term.

But while Jackson had four years in the spotlight, somewhat less is known about Gina McCarthy, the woman designated to succeed her.

And for once during an EPA hearing, the now seemingly settled issue of gas-mileage rules for future vehicles did not arise as a point of controversy.

McCarthy went before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday, in a confirmation hearing during which she was questioned on many issues by several Senators.

As noted this morning in The Detroit News, McCarthy cited her key role in negotiating corporate average fuel-economy (CAFE) regulations for 2017-2025 as an example of how she would like to lead the agency.

The process that led to those standards, she said, drew upon "the joint work of states, the automobile industry, and labor--as well as the federal government."

She called that process of developing new rules a "first-rate illustration" of her strong belief that "environmental protections do not come solely out of government or out of Washington."

McCarthy faced extensive questioning on matters that often had little to do with future EPA challenges, which include monitoring and regulation of natural-gas hydrofracturing (or "fracking'), power-plant emissions, biofuels regulation, and broader issues of climate change.

Instead, as The New York Times gently noted, "environmental questions took a back seat" at the hearing for the head Environmental Protection Agency executive.

McCarthy was asked many questions on EPA internal matters that include use of secondary e-mail accounts, instant-messaging software (she responded that, at age 58, she didn't "even know how to use them"), and other procedural matters from Jackson's tenure.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adminstrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adminstrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama

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The nominee noted at one point that the scientific consensus on global warming was "overwhelming," although Senator James Imhofe [R-OK], who chairs the Oversight committee, is a noted climate-change skeptic who has repeatedly claimed it's a widespread hoax perpetrated by a large array of conspirators.

Before her nomination to be administrator, McCarthy served as assistant administrator for the agency's Office of Air and Radiation. Before joining the EPA, she was commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

Over 25 years, according to the EPA website, McCarthy "worked at both the state and local levels on critical environmental issues and helped coordinate policies on economic growth, energy, transportation and the environment."

In mid-March, Senator Roy Blunt [R-MO] said he would put a procedural hold on McCarthy's confirmation until the EPA responded to his satisfaction about the timeline for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers levee-repair project in his district.

The hearing was held yesterday, but a vote has not yet been scheduled on her nomination.

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