* Obama picks former Romney official to lead EPA
* Energy industry not expected to fight nomination
* Climate change, power plant rules will be big fights
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON, March 4 After a long career in
public service including work for two Republican governors, Gina
McCarthy is expected to win confirmation as the next head of the
Environmental Protection Agency, thanks to her reputation as a
practical, fix-it regulator.
If confirmed, she will have her work cut out heading an
agency that is a magnet for controversy as it seeks to balance
the need for economic growth with the impact of development on
human health and the environment.
In the next few months, the EPA is due to present rules for
curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and it is now
investigating the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Nevertheless, when President Barack Obama said on Monday
that McCarthy was his pick to lead the EPA, leaders of the
energy and industry quickly signaled their acquiescence.
"We congratulate Gina McCarthy on her nomination," Jack
Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a
statement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that it too would
not stand in the way of Obama's pick.
McCarthy's nomination will have to be confirmed by the
Senate and she will likely face searing questions from foes of
the EPA. But even those lawmakers expect the official with more
than 25 years experience on clean air and water issues to assume
David Vitter of Louisiana, the most senior Republican on the
senate environment panel, said he would demand answers for past
EPA decisions but that he could envision McCarthy in office.
Obama's prior EPA director Lisa Jackson, the first
African-American to hold the cabinet-level post, stepped down
last month after four years often spent defending the agency
against political attacks.
Jackson said EPA foes damaged the agency with rumors of
looming regulatory crackdowns, such as a fictitious EPA plan to
treat bovine excretions as dangerous pollutants.
McCarthy, 58, who now serves as the EPA's clean air chief,
could be grilled over rules written in the last four years, but
two stints working for Republican governors may well guarantee
her eventual confirmation.
As the top environmental enforcer in Massachusetts under
then Governor Mitt Romney and later in neighboring Connecticut,
McCarthy proved herself a master administrator, according to
former colleagues and policy partners.
"She has a natural grasp of how to make bureaucracies work
better," said Doug Foy, who coordinated environmental and
development policy for Governor Romney. "Part of that is
accepting that 85 percent of what an agency does is routine. The
key is to make a difference with the 15 percent that's left."
Those who worked with McCarthy at the state level say she is
more motivated by booking successes than pushing a rigid agenda.
"It's rare to find an official who can combine vision and
persuasiveness with a real practical sense of how to get things
done," said Don Strait, director of the Connecticut Fund for the
McCarthy was elevated from a junior state post in
Massachusetts after Romney took office in 2003 wanting to find a
way to "bust silos" that stood between agencies for housing,
transportation, energy and the environment, Foy said.
She helped promote the initiative by balancing the big
picture with retail messaging such as a plan to retire the
state's fleet of gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles.
"Setting an example is important when you're asking more
from voters," Foy said. "Gina has a knack for that kind of
McCarthy worked well with industry in an effort to clean up
Boston Harbor, Foy said, but she was also able to soothe the
power sector when Romney set tough goals to curb the greenhouse
gases blamed for climate change.
That work continued when McCarthy took over as head of
Connecticut's environmental protection agency under Republican
Governor M. Jodi Rell in 2004.
With a mandate to curb greenhouse gas without unduly
increasing power rates for consumers, McCarthy was setting
policy at the crossroads of energy needs and conservation.
"I'm doing my best to get the environmental world to
understand the energy world is part and parcel of the
environmental world," McCarthy said in 2007, Connecticut's
Hartford Courant reported.
Connecticut led an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions
in the Northeast - an endeavor that Romney initially supported
and then opposed.
If she does step into the top role at the EPA, one of
McCarthy's big tasks will be to set emissions rules for the
power sector that accounts for about 40 percent of greenhouse
Strait, of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, ranks
McCarthy top among the five heads of the state environmental
agency he has known and he said she has the touch to lead the
roughly 17,000 employees of the EPA.
"If you meet an official at that level and you feel
energized... that's extraordinary," he said of McCarthy's time