Senate confirms McCarthy’s nomination as EPA administrator

The US Senate confirmed the nomination of Gina McCarthy as administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency by 59 to 40 votes. The July 18 action came after Republicans withdrew objections that had blocked the vote for months as part of a compromise with Democrats who threatened a filibuster overhaul attempt over prolonged nomination confirmation delays.

They nevertheless signaled they will continue to scrutinize EPA’s actions because they believe it has exceeded its authority. “For instance, in an attempt to smear the idea of hydraulic fracturing, EPA has carried out a campaign against that process in an attempt to justify unnecessary federal regulations that would usurp the successful and traditional regulation of that process,” David Vitter (La.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s ranking minority member, said before the vote.

Vitter also cited problems with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. “As renewable fuel mandates increase each year while demand for transportation fuels decreases, refiners are forced to blend more biofuels into a gasoline and diesel pool that is shrinking,” he said. “We are hitting a blend wall. It is a mounting crisis. It is right before us. EPA is managing—or I should say mismanaging—this existing program.”

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Republicans blocked a vote on McCarthy’s nomination not because they objected to her qualifications, but because they don’t like EPA itself, “even though it was created by a Republican President named Richard Nixon and supported by every President, Democratic and Republican.”

Oil and gas industry association officials had mixed reactions about McCarthy’s confirmation. American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard congratulated her, but noted that EPA has issued several unworkable proposals including new Tier 3 gasoline regulations, first-time carbon dioxide regulations, and new ozone standards that could halt business development nationwide.

But American Gas Association Pres. Dave McCurdy said he and McCarthy have a constructive working relationship “based on open and honest dialogue that will continue as we work towards the shared goal of improving the data available on the environmental impact of natural gas.”

For example, EPA recently reduced its estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from wellhead to burner tip, and AGA’s gas utility members are committed to reduce them further, he indicated.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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