The wait is over

Aug. 2, 2013
When Lisa Jackson announced last December her intention to leave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there was much speculation about who her successor might be. In early March, President Obama revealed his choice: Gina McCarthy got the nod.

In early March, President Obama revealed his choice: Gina McCarthy got the nod.

Ms. McCarthy, a Boston native (Go, Sox!), brings with her decades of experience in civil service - most recently as Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation (2009-2013). Prior to that, she served as Commissioner of the Connecticut DEP (2004-2009).

Throughout her nearly 30-year career, she has amassed a reputation as a no-nonsense "straight shooter" with an exceptional sense of humor that often serves to disarm her critics. During her tenure at EPA, she has helped shape some of the agency's most controversial initiatives, including air pollution standards for oil and gas drilling and greenhouse gas regulations for power plants. She is also regarded as a bipartisan with a proven ability to work across the aisle, having served under five Republican governors.

In remarks about his personnel nominations, President Obama said of McCarthy, "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 welcomes different points of views. I'm confident that she's going to do an outstanding job leading the EPA."

As someone with a strong record of protecting the environment - some have referred to her as President Obama's "green quarterback" - McCarthy would surely face a tense post-nomination review period. It didn't take long: Just two weeks after McCarthy was nominated, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) placed a procedural hold on her nomination pending an overdue update on a Corps levee repair project he'd been pressing the agency for in recent weeks.

Her nomination hearing finally commenced in mid-April, but it was just the beginning of what can only be described as a political circus. More than 1,100 questions were submitted for the record - 1,079 of them were from Republicans, most notably Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who alone submitted more than 650. (Compare that to Lisa Jackson's nomination hearing, which spurred only about 100 questions.)

When it came time for a vote on May 9, Senate Republicans boycotted. They literally did not show up, preventing a committee quorum and stalling the vote.

By the time McCarthy was confirmed on July 18 by a 59-40 vote, she had waited a record 154 days since her initial nomination and the Environmental Protection Agency had been without a permanent leader for five months.

If the last five months of blatant obstructionism and are any indication of what lies ahead, McCarthy indeed has her work cut out for her. It's a good thing she has a healthy sense of humor. She's going to need it.

Angela Godwin
Chief Editor, WaterWorld

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