Senate Committee Clears EPA Nominee

Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the agency was passed on a party-line vote Thursday by the Environment and Public Works Committee after Ranking Member David Vitter and seven colleagues ended their brief boycott.

A 10-8 vote along party lines on May 16 by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has moved the nomination of Gina McCarthy for EPA administrator to the full Senate for action. The committee's eight Republican members attended the hearing and voted against the nomination after they had refused to attend a hearing about it one week earlier.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the ranking member, agreed to attend the May 16 hearing after Bob Perciasepe, acting chief of EPA, wrote him a letter promising to address the transparency issues Vitter and his seven colleagues had raised. Vitter posted his letter telling Perciasepe that he will support McCarthy's nomination if she and the agency commit to specific actions on all five issues, which Vitter has described as focused "on openness and transparency."

The five transparency concerns he outlined are titled: FOIA failures, inconsistent e-mail practices and policies, transparency through data access, snapshot approach toward economic analysis doesn't work, and share 'intent to sue' notices with the public. Vitter had submitted more than 1,000 questions that McCarthy answered; the questions and answers are contained in a document filling 123 pages.

The nominee currently is assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. 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."

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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