WASHINGTON, DC, March 4, 2013 (ENS) – President Barack Obama has selected Gina McCarthy to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in his second term. In that position she would work closely with Obama to advance the climate change initiative he previewed in his State of the Union address.

Since 2009, McCarthy has been serving as Assistant EPA Administrator for Air and Radiation. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would replace Lisa Jackson, who stepped down in February 2013.

The President also named Dr. Ernest Moniz to replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu who is leaving at the end of March.

“They are going to be a great team,” said Obama announcing the nominations this morning at the White House.

Moniz, McCarthy

President Barack Obama announces his nominees to spearhead energy and environment in his second term: from left, Ernest Moniz, Gina McCarthy, President Obama, March 4, 2013 (Photo courtesy The White House)

Moniz is a nuclear physicist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who also serves as director of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment and director of the Energy Initiative at MIT. He has been on the faculty since 1973, and has served as head of the Physics Department and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center.

Moniz is a current member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He was named to the Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future as of January 2010.

“Now, the good news is that Ernie already knows his way around the Department of Energy,” Obama said. “He is a physicist by training, but he also served as Under Secretary of Energy under President [Bill] Clinton. Since then, he’s directed MIT’s Energy Initiative, which brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs.”

In testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2011 Moniz described his work, saying, “My own research program for the last decade has centered on advancing multidisciplinary studies that link technology, analysis and policy in order to enable clean energy innovation.”

Moniz has gone on record as being in favor of nuclear power, research into carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power plants, renewable energy and natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing of shale rock.

Moniz has expressed concern about climate change and supports funding research into low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

“Most importantly,” said Obama today, “Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate.”

Announcing McCarthy’s nomination, the President said, “As a top environmental official in Massachusetts and Connecticut, she helped design programs to expand energy efficiency and promote renewable energy.  As Assistant EPA Administrator, Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing.”

“She’s earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She welcomes different points of views. I’m confident that she’s going to do an outstanding job leading the EPA,” Obama said.

Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy (Photo courtesy U.S. EPA)

In her 25 years in public administration, McCarthy has been an environmental advisor to five Massachusetts governors, including former Governor Mitt Romney.

From 2004 to 2009 she was commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. In this capacity she was instrumental in building the first market-based regulatory program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, now implemented by nine Northeastern states, is a cap-and-trade program that auctions carbon emissions credits to reduce greenhouse gases.

McCarthy is on the record as saying, “The risks to public health and the environment from climate change are substantial and far-reaching.”

At a hearing on EPA regulation of greenhouse gases before a House subcommittee on energy and power in June 2012, McCarthy said the agency’s actions to address greenhouse gas emissions “are not only consistent with the science and the law; they are also good policy.”

She is convinced that climate change is dangerous and must be averted. “Greenhouse gas pollution, through its contribution to global climate change, presents a significant threat to Americans’ health and to the environment upon which our economy and security depends,” she told the subcommittee.

“Scientists warn that carbon pollution and resulting climate change are expected to lead to more intense hurricanes and storms, heavier and more frequent flooding, increased drought, and more severe wildfires – events that can cause deaths, injuries, and billions of dollars of damage to property and the nation’s infrastructure,” McCarthy said. “Some of these impacts already have been observed.”

“Carbon pollution is leading to more frequent and intense heat waves that increase mortality, especially among the poor and elderly,” she said. “Scientists also expect increasing carbon pollution and resulting climate changes to lead compared to a future without climate change to increased ozone pollution over broad areas of the country, including large population areas with unhealthy ozone levels.”

The EPA Office of Air and Radiation that McCarthy now heads is concerned with pollution prevention and energy efficiency, indoor and outdoor air quality, industrial air pollution, pollution from vehicles and engines, radon, acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change, and radiation protection. The Office is responsible for administering the Clean Air Act and the Atomic Energy Act among other environmental laws.

During the past four years, McCarthy led the development of national emission standards for the mercury discharged from power plants and helped create new greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles.

The environmental community came out in support of these two nominations.

EDF President Fred Krupp called both Moniz and McCarthy, “experienced and well-respected nominees.”

Ernest Moniz

Dr. Ernest Moniz (Photo courtesy MIT)

“I am delighted that Gina McCarthy has been nominated to be our nation’s next EPA Administrator,” Krupp said. She is “well known for listening and responding to the concerns of both environmental advocates and industry stakeholders, and for pursuing a regulatory approach that is flexible, reasonable and cost-effective.”

“Ernest Moniz is also an impressive choice,” said Krupp. “He has many qualities that will make him an excellent Secretary of Energy, including deep expertise, broad experience, a pragmatic approach to problems, and an enthusiasm for creating a clean energy future for America.’

“Dr. Moniz has repeatedly observed that just because the environmental challenges of shale gas are manageable that does not mean that they are yet managed,” said Krupp. “As there is work that remains to be done to ensure the safety of communities living around oil and gas development, and to address the air pollution issues that go beyond the local neighbors, his perspective will be important in the national conversation.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, welcomed both nominees. “Gina McCarthy is a very solid choice for EPA. She is knowledgeable, willing to listen, and straight-forward. She knows the EPA inside and out and has typically approached challenges with a common-sense determination to resolve them in a timely manner.”

Dinneen said, “RFA and the ethanol producers we represent look forward to meeting with Secretary-designee Moniz to update him on the state of the U.S. ethanol industry, our track record of success in fostering greater energy independence, and the exciting results of ongoing investment in next generation biofuels.”

Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan said, “President Obama continues to build his second-term cabinet with more recognized and ardent energy efficiency champions to the great benefit of our country’s energy and economic future.”

“We are confident that Dr. Moniz will bring forward an innovative and implementable plan to achieve the President’s and the Alliance’s Energy 2030 goal announced goal to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030.”

“McCarthy will hit the ground running with four years of EPA experience leading and innovating important programs and regulations,” Callahan said. “She also has a keen understanding of the President’s agenda, and the challenges facing the nation as we move toward greater energy productivity and a more sustainable energy system.”

Obama said today, “So these two over here, they’re going to be making sure that we’re investing in American energy, that we’re doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we’re going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity in the first place. And these are some of my top priorities going forward.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.

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