July 15, 2013

Maine Voices: Nominee is 'highly qualified' to lead Environmental Protection Agency

The collaborative problem solver can bring opposing interests together and 'make things happen.'

By MARTHA KIRKPATRICK

LINCOLNVILLE - When I heard that President Obama had nominated Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, I said, "Wow, what an excellent choice!"

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when McCarthy was head of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and then the head of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Quality, and I served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, we worked together on regional issues to protect our air, water and public health.

That McCarthy is plenty experienced is without question. She is as well-versed as anyone on the issues of air quality, climate change and toxic pollution. She knows her stuff and will hit the ground running. She has demonstrated her commitment to public service and to public and environmental health during her many years in state government and at the national level with the Clean Air Division at the EPA as well.

In addition, McCarthy's temperament and her ability to work collaboratively to find solutions make her a particularly good choice for EPA chief. She knows how to bring together environmental and business interests and others. She is straightforward, dedicated and always willing to listen.

Speaking to the National Journal in February, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers vice president Gloria Bergquist called McCarthy "a pragmatic policy-maker. She has aspirational environmental goals, but she accepts real world economics."

Scott Segal, a lead lobbyist for energy interests, from coal-fired utilities to tar sands pipelines, told Politico in March, "What many in industry appreciate about (McCarthy's) style is her directness and openness to engagement with the regulated community."

In addition to these and other testimonials for her good work, she has broad support from environmental organizations nationwide, and for good reason. Her accomplishments have protected public health, reduced climate change and created jobs, too. During her tenure at the EPA, McCarthy has:

Established historic carbon pollution standards for new cars and trucks that will save American families nearly $8,000 in fuel savings per vehicle at the pump, cut carbon pollution and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

Set the nation's first-ever mercury and air toxics standards for power plants, which are expected to prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year.

Updated standards that protect Americans from fine-particle pollution, or soot, providing health benefits worth up to $9.1 billion per year starting in 2020, a return of $12 to $171 for every dollar invested in pollution reduction

Proposed the first national limits on carbon pollution from new power plants, which are the nation's largest source of dangerous carbon pollution. This is a critical step toward cleaning up and modernizing our power plants.

McCarthy's success in bringing environmental and business interests together also translates to her ability to transcend party lines to make things happen.

She is a dedicated professional who has worked for five Republican governors, including Jodi Rell of Connecticut and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, before joining the Obama administration, and her nonpartisan, professional approach to implementing life-saving standards will protect our water, air and climate.

McCarthy brings common sense, pragmatism and an ability to cut to the chase, which enable her to get things accomplished for the public good. And she has a ready sense of humor, which will surely serve her well.

As a nation, we must face the challenges posed by the high level of carbon pollution in our air. This critical environmental issue of our time demands our serious attention. I cannot imagine a more qualified leader to bring together Republicans, Democrats, industry leaders, auto makers and public health and environmental advocates to develop pragmatic and cost-effective solutions.

Now more than ever, we need public-spirited leaders in Washington who are collaborative problem-solvers. The public and the environment will be well-served by Gina McCarthy as EPA chief.

In 2009, the Senate easily confirmed the highly qualified McCarthy by a voice vote to head the Clean Air Division of the EPA. The Senate should move quickly and in a bipartisan fashion this week to approve this highly qualified nominee.

Martha Kirkpatrick of Lincolnville was commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection from 1999 to 2003.

 

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