Biden Picks Former EPA Chief McCarthy as Climate Policy Czar

December 16, 2020by Ari Natter, Jennifer Jacobs and Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on August 3, 2015. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden has selected Gina McCarthy, Barack Obama’s former EPA chief, to run a special White House office on climate change that will coordinate policy and elevate global warming to a top place in the executive office, three people familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

McCarthy, who led the Environmental Protection Agency for nearly four years during Obama’s second term, was the driving force behind combating climate change through regulation, including his signature Clean Power Plan, which took a novel approach to limit greenhouse gas emissions but the Supreme Court blocked from going into force while legal challenges played out. Ultimately, President Donald Trump’s EPA repealed the regulation before it got underway.

As the White House climate czar, she would work across agencies to ensure a coordinated approach to confronting climate change. McCarthy would work closely with former Secretary of State John Kerry, who Biden announced in November as special presidential climate envoy focusing on reentry of the U.S. to the Paris climate accord and related diplomacy.

The job doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

A McCarthy spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

McCarthy’s appointment comes as Biden seeks to fulfill a campaign promise to make fighting climate change a top priority. Biden has proposed a sweeping $2 trillion climate plan that calls for an emissions-free electric grid in 15 years and net-zero emissions across the entire economy by 2050.

McCarthy, 66, who has been president of the Natural Resources Defense Council since January, also took action to cap methane leaks from oil and gas wells and related equipment while head of the EPA. The limits McCarthy’s EPA imposed in 2016 were the first to explicitly regulate the potent greenhouse gas, going beyond existing mandates that focused on other, conventional air pollution at the sites.

McCarthy’s previous roles have included serving as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, where she was instrumental in developing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate effort to reduce emissions contributing to global warming, according to her NRDC biography.

McCarthy, a Boston native, previously advised five Massachusetts governors, including now Sen. Mitt Romney. She served as deputy secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development, and undersecretary of policy for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

“McCarthy knows the regulatory landscape better than anyone, but also has sharp political instincts to enable parts of their legislative agenda,” Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate aide, said before her apppointment became public. “It’s hard to find both.

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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