NBC News reports:
The battle over climate change is heating up in Washington – as President Barack Obama’s nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency sets the stage for a struggle over regulations intended to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions.
A big part of McCarthy’s job, Obama said as he introduced her Monday at the White House, will be to ensure that “we’re doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change.”
In his inaugural address, Obama had already signaled that climate policy would be a high priority for his second term.
But Senate passage of a climate change bill that might impose new costs on the oil, coal and gas industries seems unlikely, especially since the Republican-majority House would be nearly certain to oppose any such effort.
Seeming to acknowledge this reality, Obama said in his State of the Union address, “I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
The EPA will be at the center of the climate change action.
Kyle Danish, a partner in the Van Ness Feldman law firm in Washington who specializes in climate change policy, said he expected McCarthy to face tough questioning during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. But he thinks it unlikely that Republicans will block her.
“Though McCarthy is by no means pro-industry, industry groups generally respect her and believe that she gives them a fair hearing,” Danish said.
Assuming she is confirmed, McCarthy can begin to try to transform Obama’s climate change rhetoric into regulatory reality.
“Of the four big priorities that the president is sketching out – climate change, the budget, gun control, and immigration, climate change is the one area where the president already has in existing law a lot of tools to address the problem,” said David Doniger, policy director for Climate and Clean Air at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental advocacy group. In its mission statement the NRDC says, “Climate change is the single biggest environmental and humanitarian crisis of our time.”
Ultimately, Doniger said, legislation will be needed to bring about deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, or carbon pollution, “but you can get a very big start on that under the Clean Air Act principally and under some of the energy efficiency laws.”
Doniger said power plants account for 40 percent of carbon emissions and “that’s where the EPA under Gina McCarthy will need to focus. As you look at where the carbon pollution comes from on the industrial side, the single largest thing is coal- and gas-burning power plants.” The NRDC has proposed a plan for using the Clean Air Act to cut that pollution by a third by 2025. . . .