EPA nominee calls climate change 'one of greatest challenges'
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Combating climate change is "one of the greatest challenges of our generation," according to Gina McCarthy, who has been nominated to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The U.S. faces negative economic exposure from rising global temperatures and the EPA has the regulatory duty to address the problem under the Clean Air Act, said McCarthy, who currently runs EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.
"We're doing it in common sense steps to ensure the economy can continue to grow," she said during a Senate confirmation hearing on April 11.
The issue of climate change loomed large during the hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Democratic senators generally supported regulation of carbon emissions to curb the warming trend while Republicans warned of the dangers to U.S. jobs and industries.
Critics have argued that the EPA is using regulatory authority to advance the Obama administration's climate change agenda, which failed to pass muster in Congress in 2010.
McCarthy countered this allegation by stating that the Clean Air Act requires the agency to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutants, with the law and science supporting the steps it's taking.
Several Republican senators complained during the hearing that EPA regulations on coal-burning plants are squandering this energy resource at the cost of coal industry workers.
Their concern is shared by the American Farm Bureau Federation, as farmers rely on electricity from coal to remain competitive in the world economy, said Andrew Walmsley, the group's director of congressional relations.
The U.S. shouldn't sacrifice a source of affordable energy, especially since the benefits are dubious, he said. "We don't think unilateral action by the U.S. is going to affect the climate."
As far as the direct impact on farmers, the EPA has decided not to regulate livestock producers and other small carbon emitters under the Clean Air Act, Walmsley said.
"We're not meeting the threshold for large emitters at this point," he said.
The possibility of regulation remains worrisome, however, as some environmentalists consider the agency's approach to be unlawful, Walmsley said. "It will be interesting to see as things are litigated how that rule stands up."