CAMBRIDGE, Mass./WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - Delivering her first speech as the top U.S. environmental steward, Gina McCarthy on Tuesday pre-empted a frequent mantra of the agency’s critics - that the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations disrupt the economy and cost jobs.
The benefits derived from rules to address climate change and protect the environment far outweigh their costs, McCarthy said. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 18 as EPA administrator.
“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs please?” McCarthy said in a speech at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
She said the EPA, often a lightning rod for Republican opposition in Congress, is working to develop “a new mindset about how climate change and environmental protection fits within our national and global economic agenda.”
She added that the federal Clean Air Act - the basis of the agency’s powers to set rules - had produced $30 in benefits for every dollar spent in its name.
McCarthy was confirmed after a months-long process that at one point involved a Republican boycott of a committee vote and required her to answer more than 1,000 questions posted by senators about the EPA’s rulemaking processes and transparency.
The speech, just a few miles from her hometown of Boston, marked the start of a nationwide tour to talk about why acting on climate change is necessary and to dispel common criticisms.
McCarthy, along with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, are making public appearances to help the president roll out the Climate Action Plan he announced in June.
At the heart of Obama’s plan will be new EPA regulations that will target carbon emissions from existing power plants, which account for more than one-third of U.S. greenhouse gases and in many cases are fired by coal.
They said the agency will try to replicate the success it had with the U.S. automotive industry, with which it collaborated to craft new fuel efficiency standards to lower the carbon footprint of the automobile fleet.
“This is a game plan for other sectors to follow on how we can reduce emissions, strengthen energy security and develop new economic benefits for consumers and businesses,” McCarthy said.
In addition to close collaboration with industry, McCarthy said she will look to states and local governments that have piloted emission reduction policies and blueprints without waiting for Washington. (Reporting By Richard Valdmanis; Writing by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Ros Krasny and Maureen Bavdek)