Environmental Protection

EPA Nominee Gets Senate Hearing Tomorrow

Gina McCarthy is praised by Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, but Ranking Member David Vitter criticizes her answers to questions he submitted.

The nomination of Gina McCarthy for EPA administrator will be debated in a hearing May 9 by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, giving the environmental community and the other stakeholders an early look at arguments for and against her. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m. EDT.

Committee Chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has praised McCarthy as "a strong, bipartisan candidate [who] is the right person for the job at this critical time." But Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the ranking member, issued a statement May 6 criticizing her answers to questions he submitted. The questions and answers are contained in a document filling 123 pages; Boxer noted Republicans had submitted more than 1,000 questions to the nominee, who currently is assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

"With days left before her confirmation hearing, McCarthy has not shown any greater commitment to a higher standard of transparency, one that the agency desperately needs -- if we are to judge from her responses to the Committee Republicans' requests," Vitter's statement said. "So far, we have generously allowed her the time to respond to our questions and five specific transparency requests. However, the unresponsive answers received are unacceptable, and I do hope the nominee provides more detailed and adequate information before this Thursday."

Among the questions and answers listed in the document are these:

Your predecessor indicated that the new automobile mandates would add "a little upfront" cost to cars. Yet in its own documents the federal government estimates that the additional cost for a new car will increase $3200 on average as a result of the mandate. How would you characterize that amount?
The estimated average additional cost of the vehicle in 2025 (estimated at $1800 over the 2016 standards, or about $3,000 over model year 2011) will be more than offset by an estimated $8,000 in fuel cost savings to the consumer over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Who should be primarily responsible for designing automobile mandates, EPA, DOT, or California?
EPA and DOT act under their respective statutory authorities, the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) to promulgate vehicle emissions standards (CAA) and corporate fuel economy standards (EPCA). In the Clean Air Act, Congress included preemption waiver provisions allowing California to have a state new motor vehicle emissions program, provided certain statutory requirements are met.

How regressive are the costs imposed by environmental regulations? Has the agency ever examined that?
I have always been very sensitive to the costs of regulations and have worked hard to find flexibilities where I can that help us to achieve environmental and public health benefits at a lower cost. At the same time we must be sensitive to two other points. First, the costs imposed by pollution control standards are a small component of the overall costs of goods and services. For example, even with the MATS rule in place, electricity prices are projected to remain well within their historical range of variability. Other rules, such as our Light Duty Vehicle standards for GHG emissions, can actually save consumers money over the life of a vehicle. Second, we must also keep in mind that the impacts of pollution often fall heavily on lower income individuals and protecting them can help reduce costs for medical treatment and missed work. If confirmed, I commit to continue to be sensitive to both the costs and benefits of our regulations for all Americans, including lower income families.

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