Obama picks McCarthy to lead EPA, Moniz for DOE

Posted: Mar 4, 2013

Written by

Jason Plautz, Jean Chemnick and Hannah Northey, E&E

President Obama plans to announce his nomination of U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy to lead the agency and MIT physicist Ernest Moniz to lead the Department of Energy, a White House official said this morning.

If confirmed by the Senate, the two would play critical roles in Obama's push to address climate change.

McCarthy, who heads EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, oversaw the development of the agency's highest-profile regulations in Obama's first term, including first-of-their-kind greenhouse gas and toxics rules for power plants, new restrictions on sulfur in gasoline and tougher fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.

She would replace Lisa Jackson, who left the administration last week. EPA has approximately 17,000 full-time employees; McCarthy is in line to be the 12th administrator.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, McCarthy served as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and in several top jobs as a Massachusetts regulator under Gov. Mitt Romney (R). As a state official, McCarthy helped lay the groundwork for the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Environmentalists say McCarthy's reputation for working well with industry and her history in rulemaking could serve her well as administrator, since the EPA has a long list of regulations on deck (Greenwire, Feb. 12).

Groups that have pushed for tough carbon dioxide rules favored McCarthy to lead EPA.

"In the aftermath of the 2012 election, when it became clear that Lisa Jackson was going to move on, the environmental community called on the president to nominate a climate champion to fill the role," said David Di Martino, a consultant on climate issues, before the official announcement. "If you believe the reports, the indication is that that's going to happen.

EPA will work in coming years to finalize rules for greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and the so-called Tier-3 sulfur rule for gasoline. Administration officials have also said they expect the agency to make good on its pledge to write new greenhouse gas regulations for existing power plants.

McCarthy will likely face opposition during her confirmation from Senate Republicans, who have said that rules written by her office have led to a regulatory over-reach and economic harm.

But supporters point out that Romney and Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, also a Republican, both tapped McCarthy for senior environmental posts.

"That means she will provide a bipartisan luster to the administration's efforts to fight climate change," said Daniel Weiss, senior fellow at Center for American Progress.


Moniz, director of MIT's Energy Initiative, would replace outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who's reportedly returning to Stanford University this spring as a professor of humanities and sciences (Greenwire, Feb. 22).

Moniz, who served as DOE undersecretary in the Clinton administration, has drawn fire from some green groups for his views on hydraulic fracturing and nuclear power.

Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Public Citizen have all expressed concern about Moniz's support for nuclear federal loan guarantees and the use of cheap natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to a more carbon-constrained energy economy. They have also raised concerns about his assertion that environmental issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing are manageable (Greenwire, Feb. 22).

As secretary, Moniz could play a pivotal role in deciding whether U.S. companies should be able to export a newly discovered surge of shale gas, currently a topic of heated debate on Capitol Hill. The administration has approved one export terminal in Louisiana and is now reviewing 16 additional export applications.

Moniz has indicated he may favor LNG exports. He co-chaired a study in 2011 that recommended against U.S. barriers to gas imports or exports since a global gas market would produce "substantial benefits."

Those views could be scrutinized by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has expressed concern about unfettered LNG exports and ripple effects on domestic gas prices and manufacturers.

Moniz would also be in a position to oversee the political morass over nuclear waste disposal in the wake of Obama's abandoning of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

Copyright © 2019 Red Lodge Clearinghouse. All rights reserved.