Friday, August 2, 2013

New EPA Chief Promises to Tackle Climate Change

McCarthy Tackles Climate Change at Harvard Law School
McCarthy at Harvard Law School
Gina McCarthy gave her first speech as the new Environmental Protection Agency chief at Harvard Law School last week, telling the audience that tackling global warming and climate change will create more jobs and spark economic growth.

McCarthy was confirmed on July 18th after being nominated by President Obama to replace the head of the EPA in early March. She is a Boston native and spent 25 years in public administration, serving as an environmental advisor to Massachusetts governors. She also served as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection for 5 years.

In line with Obama's stance on climate change, McCarthy vowed to work with industry leaders to decrease the disastrous effects of carbon emissions and hazardous wastes. Both Obama and the EPA have been criticized by Republicans for being too aggressive in their stance against environmental change. In 2011, the EPA under Obama issued mercury pollution limits on power plants and greenhouse gas regulations.

"Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs? Please, at least for today," said McCarthy toward these critical Republicans in her speech, receiving a large round of applause from audience members. "We need to embrace cutting-edge technology as a way to spark business innovation." McCarthy posits that creating tighter environmental regulations will call for more innovation and advanced technology, causing an increased demand for labor.

Republicans, however, disagree and fear that stricter carbon emissions will cause coal-plants to shut down, leaving thousands unemployed.

McCarthy, in an interview last week, however, stated, "This is about the abundance of low-cost natural gas. It’s about how utilities are making decisions, company-wide, about how to invest in the future the way they see it right now."

McCarthy sees this as a chance to make an environmental impact and boost the economy. "We need to cut carbon pollution to grow jobs. We need to cut carbon pollution to strengthen the economy…Let’s approach this as an opportunity of a lifetime," she stated, emphasizing that investments in new infrastructure and renewable energy sources would be beneficial in the long run and create jobs now.

Obama and the EPA have repeatedly emphasized the importance of tackling climate change. Obama stated that he had no "patience for anyone who denies that this problem is real." During his speech in Georgetown earlier this summer, Obama vowed to limit carbon emissions from foreign coal sources and halt the production of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, stating that the pipeline would, in reality, not create many jobs. He estimated the construction would create 2,000 temporary jobs at most, and 50-100 jobs for maintenance of the pipeline after construction.

When asked about her stance on the pipeline during a Q&A session, McCarthy answered that the EPA would not make final decisions until receiving a full environmental analysis from the State Department but promised that the impact on the climate would be taken into consideration.

"Climate change will not be resolved overnight," McCarthy told the audience. "But it will be engaged over the next three years. That I can promise you."