EPA admin. stresses climate change, renewable energy

Aug 2, 2013

Mention of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can stir up some passionate comments among the ranching community; and none too positive at that. This stems from the fact so much of what EPA does can have massive impacts on producers’ livelihoods. Unfortunately, the interactive relationship didn’t appear to be recognized—or at least acknowledged—by the agency’s new administrator.

Gina McKarthy, previously EPA’s assistant administrator, spoke to a welcoming group at Harvard Law school last Tuesday. The speech was not the standard fare by political standards, given McKarthy’s light-hearted, playful interaction with the crowd, which often broke out into laughter. She even made a point of stressing her New England pronunciation—or lack thereof—of Rs, much to the entertainment of the Cambridge, MA, crowd.

But when she discussed serious matters, particularly the issues facing the country and EPA in the future, Mc- Karthy was all business. But that business was focused on the issues of the economy as it relates to climate change and energy; agriculture was not mentioned.

A good portion of McKarthy’s speech focused on EPA’s impact on and interaction with the economy. She particularly addressed many of the complaints against EPA and environmental regulation.

“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs, please?

At least for today?” McKarthy asked, to much applause. She followed this by sharing rapid-fire statistics on how many jobs were created, lives were saved, and dollars either made or saved as a result of the actions of EPA over its 43-year lifespan. She also made a plea to “move between the old dichotomy issue” of environment versus economy.

“It’s not a choice between the health of our children and the health of the economy,” she said. “Today, the truth is we need to cut carbon pollution to spark the economy. We need to cut carbon pollution to create jobs. There are too many lifetimes at stake to not tackle this issue head on.”

In this vein, McKarthy tied the topics of climate change to the economy, asserting that “Climate change isn’t an environmental issue; it is a fundamental economic challenge.” She used Hurricane Sandy as an example of her point.

During her speech, Mc- Karthy spoke at length of the need to invest in renewable energy and the successful efforts of the past to reduce emissions. McKarthy discussed what she called EPA’s successes of the past, particularly while under the Obama administration.

“I think he has overseen in his first term some of the most productive years of this agency,” she said of President Obama. “We started regulating greenhouse gasses, and we took a giant leap forward in moving towards clean energy.”

She also gave a “shout out” to the president for his trust and confidence in her by nominating her as the EPA administrator back in March of this year. Her confirmation came in mid-July following one of the longestrunning confirmation battles ever seen. The Senate eventually confirmed McKarthy with a 59-40 vote.

She attributed many of these successes to the efforts of activists, scholars, nongovernmental organizations, non-profits, faithbased groups and scientists.

She also credited many businesses and industries with helping make improvements possible, but did not name any. Missing in all of her speech was any mention of agriculture.

For the future, McKarthy acknowledged a rough road ahead.

“I want to tell you, in my straight-shooting fashion, that we have challenges ahead.”

McKarthy described these challenges as “increasingly complicated.” She also stressed that EPA’s duty is to listen and follow the lead of those “on the ground” rather than push or drive change. Cooperation with local interests and needs were emphasized.

“We must listen to everyone who has a stake in these issues,” she said of environmental challenges and addressing them in the future. “It is absolutely my obligation to hear all those voices.”

She again listed out numerous stakeholders in environmental issues, and again agriculture—and the less precise phrase “rural communities,” which is often used to include agriculture—was absent. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor