Obama nominates McCarthy to head EPA, Moniz to lead DOE

US President Barack Obama nominated Gina McCarthy, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, to succeed Lisa A. Jackson as EPA’s administrator. He also nominated Ernest J. Moniz, who directs the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, to succeed Steven Chu as US Energy Secretary.

Both are eminently qualified to help his administration promote energy growth and address climate change during his second term, Obama said during a Mar. 4 White House ceremony where he nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the new White House Office of Management and Budget director.

McCarthy would take EPA’s helm at a time when the federal environmental regulatory agency is under growing fire for what many in the oil and gas industry consider aggressive, and sometimes politically motivated, regulatory initiatives.

But she has substantial administrative experience not only at EPA, where she has directed the air and radiation office since 2009, but also in Connecticut and Massachusetts. “She’s earned a reputation as a straight shooter and welcomes different points of view,” Obama said.

He added that Moniz also has government as well as academic experience, having been US Energy Undersecretary from 1997 to 2001 and as associate director for science in the science and technology policy office within the Executive Office of the President from 1995 to 1997.

Moniz’s challenges at the US Department of Energy would include keeping energy research and development programs moving ahead as federal budgets shrink. Moniz also would be under pressure to reevaluate programs developed when the US oil and gas outlook was much bleaker than it is now.

Responses to choices

McCarthy’s nomination drew immediate responses. “We congratulate Gina McCarthy on her nomination to head the EPA,” American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said. “We hope [she] shares the president’s stated vision for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy and will support only sound EPA regulations that reduce potential adverse impacts on employment and energy costs while protecting the environment.”

The problem is that EPA is not always passing regulations which meets Obama’s stated primary goal of creating more American jobs, Gerard continued. He cited upcoming EPA proposals for new Tier 3 regulations on gasoline that could raise manufacturing costs, first time regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from refineries, and new ozone standards that could halt business development across the country.

Environmental Defense Fund Pres. Fred Krupp applauded the president’s choice to be EPA’s next administrator. “As head of EPA’s national air office, McCarthy led the development of historic national emission standards for the mercury discharged from power plants, and helped forge new greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles,” he said.

He said McCarthy also has worked under Republicans as well as Democrats, including serving as a key environmental official when Mitt Romney was Massachusetts governor. “She is well known for listening and responding to the concerns of both environmental advocates and industry stakeholders, and for pursuing a regulatory approach that is flexible, reasonable, and cost-effective,” Krupp said.

Congressional energy leaders also commented. US Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Obama could not have made a better choice to be his new EPA administrator and pledged to move forward with her confirmation hearing soon. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ronald L. Wyden (D-Ore.) said he looks forward to discussing several issues with Moniz at his confirmation hearing.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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