Gina McCarthy sails through confirmation to head EPA

Washington — After a rough road, Gina McCarthy was easily confirmed Thursday as the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

McCarthy, who headed Connecticut’s former Department of Environmental Protection, was confirmed on a 59-40 vote. All votes against her, except one, belonged to Republican senators. The sole Democrat to vote against her was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

“I voted against Gina McCarthy to be the next administrator of the EPA, but my fight is not with her,” Manchin said in a statement. “My fight is with President Obama and the EPA, the regulatory agency that has consistently placed unreasonable regulations and unobtainable standards on energy production …”

President Obama nominated McCarthy, a Bostonian, in March to replace Lisa Jackson, who stepped down from the post in 2012. The president said he looked forward to working with her on climate change.

“With years of experience at the state and local level, Gina is a proven leader who knows how to build bipartisan support for common-sense environmental solutions that protect the health and safety of our kids while promoting economic growth,” Obama said in a statement.

Although only a handful of Republican senators voted for McCarthy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said it was “an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote” that gives her a mandate.

“She will strike the proper balance between environmental protection and economic growth because she knows the two goals are mutually supportive – not exclusive,” Blumenthal said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also praised the Senate vote.

“Simply put, Gina McCarthy is a great choice to lead the EPA,” Malloy said.  “As the former Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, she was a staunch advocate for ecological stewardship…”

McCarthy was subjected to a tough confirmation hearing, a filibuster threat and a hold on her nomination by a Republican senator who was angry at the EPA over a local water project.

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to change Senate rules so McCarthy and other stalled nominees could get a vote, a deal was reached that allowed Thursday’s confirmation of McCarthy and that of other nominees. One of them, Thomas Perez, was confirmed earlier in the day to head the Labor Department.

The Obama administration, however, agreed to withdraw the nominations of two candidates for the National Labor Relations Board.

McCarthy was Connecticut’s environmental chief during the administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican.

As such, McCarthy helped create the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which allows power companies in New England and the Mid-Atlantic to sell emissions allowances if they invest the money from those sales in clean energy.

McCarthy also worked in the administration of former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

She was confirmed in 2009 as the EPA administrator in charge of air quality.

That, and Obama’s new interest in tackling climate change, provoked opposition to her nomination by Manchin, and other senators who come from states rich in fossil fuels.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said McCarthy was responsible for regulations and taxes that have hurt the coal and oil industries. “She has been at the center…of that draconian action,” Vitter said.

 

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