It’s been six months since Lisa Jackson announced she was stepping down as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, but there’s still no replacement. President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to be Jackson’s successor in early March, and the Senate EPW Committee confirmed the nomination almost a month ago – albeit by a party-line vote of 10-8.
Committee Republicans boycotted her confirmation hearing but submitted an astounding quantity of questions for her to answer – more than a thousand of them, almost two-thirds from Ranking Member David Vitter. She responded to every single one, but Vitter still claims that the EPA is withholding information. He said this week he’ll delay the vote until the EPA can provide justification for some of its regulations.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt is joining Vitter in holding up the nomination for his own reasons, something to do with a dispute over a quarter-mile gap in a levee in his state.
The pity of it is that McCarthy has the chops to be an excellent EPA administrator. She comes from the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, which oversees air quality issues. But before that, she left an impressive smart growth legacy in New England – including a significant stint during the progressive and forward-thinking part of Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts.
Romney was the fifth Massachusetts governor McCarthy worked for, and he promoted her to undersecretary for policy at the Executive Office for Environmental Affairs. That office was merged with the state departments of housing, transportation, and energy to form the Office for Commonwealth Development – a precursor to President Obama’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities – and Romney picked McCarthy to be its deputy secretary of operations.
According to a Mother Jones article from last year, environmentalists in the state enthusiastically praised McCarthy’s performance in the role, calling her “terrific — plainspoken, smart, and very aggressive.” The office used state funds to support compact and transit-oriented development, implemented a far-reaching Climate Protection Plan that sought to reduce emissions enough to “eliminate any dangerous threat to the climate,” and crafted a 20-year Strategic Transportation Plan that focused on transit.