Gina McCarthy

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
Image: EPA / YouTube

Nearly five months after being nominated by President Obama, Gina McCarthy will finally be able to lead the Environmental Protection agency.  After a grueling process, lead mostly by republicans, McCarthy was confirmed in a 59-40 vote on July 18th.  Environmentalists are very supportive of McCarthy, mainly due to her record pushing through new air quality regulations during her time as the administrator of the EPA’s office of Air and Radiation.  She has a history of working with both political parties in order to get things done.  If her confirmation is any indication, however, she will face many political challenges as the new head of environmental policies.

Since cap and trade legislation failed in Congress this year, the White House must look to the EPA to regulate carbon emissions by force.  McCarthy will be responsible for developing limits of carbon pollution and then instructing states on how to enforce the new limitations.  Twenty states have already objected to the idea.  Utility companies may even try to sue the EPA for being too harsh, although leniency would cause backlash from environmental groups.  Gina McCarthy’s job will be to balance these political pressures and create a sustainable plan for greenhouse gases.

Closing coal plants has been identified as the most effective way to reduce emissions.  While senators from coal mining states claim to be angry about the administration’s war on coal, it makes sense.  Coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels, less efficient than natural gas, and ultimately releases the most carbon emissions per calorie of energy.  While coal usage is on the decline, it still counts for about a third of the electricity in the United States.  John Kerry is also a supporter of coal reduction, and has said he is working on a plan with China to decrease its dependency on coal exports.  Most likely closing coal plants will be McCarthy’s legacy.