Former EPA Admin Gina McCarthy Reacts To Changes In New Administration

Sep 29, 2017

Official portrait of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
Credit EPA


Since January, President Trump has ordered systematic rollbacks of Obama-era environmental regulations. He’s voiced an intent to focus on energy development and jobs over environmental regulation.

Many of these rules were crafted by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency under Gina McCarthy. She was EPA Administrator during his second term. They focused on taking strong steps against climate change. McCarthy recently visited Wyoming and gave her reaction to these drastic changes.


Can you talk about how you felt when the administration started mentioning a more systematic roll-back and employing a more systematic roll-back.


You know, all I will say is that I was surprised that there was no more discretion put towards ‘What do I like, what don’t I like, what should happen, what shouldn’t, what does the law require, what is the science telling us'. Because they so quickly said 'everything’s going', you know, so there was not a really thoughtful process.


And I think it’s important to have that, I think that’s the role a new administration has is to have a thoughtful look. I think there’s always going to be policy swings, different judgments, but this administration is questioning the science itself, in ways that really are, make life very unpredictable, I think for all of us including the business community which is now facing significant uncertainty with all of the changes being proposed.


But I think people ought to understand, that you can’t, no matter who you are, you can’t come in and make pronouncements. Everybody in the United States has their role in the government and has their authorities and in order for the EPA to be rolling back rules, they have to do a rule-making in order to make that happen.


So, states like Wyoming have a lot of people who aren’t particularly sad to see some of these regulations loosening leaving more room for economic development.


So, we did not do anything that should pit the effort to reduce greenhouse gases in any way against the economy because we were following the way that the energy market was working. Today, no matter what anybody in this administration says, renewable energy is both clean and marketable. Right now, there is no strong market for coal in the United States of America. 


That has been a trend that’s been happening since the '80s. And we know that renewable energy is here to stay, clean energy is where the economy is moving, where the jobs are growing. So, we have to figure out how to break through the rhetoric and look at the real facts of how you do rules and recognize that you can have, and you must have, both a strong economy and good environmental protections. 


So, like you said, a lot of this will be caught up in court. It’s not necessarily going to be an easy thing to rescind these regulations. I’m wondering if you think these rollbacks will have a long-term impact. 


I don’t think so. I don’t they will have long-term impacts. I’m pretty confident we did what we needed to do correctly and if it goes to court, if they don’t do things right, they will lose. I think the courts won’t be happy with how busy they are because that’s not how government is done. 


Unless there is a flaw, unless we got the science wrong, unless we didn’t follow the law, then the administration needs to articulate a solid reason why government would change its position. And if they cannot do that, they will not be successful. And so far, I’m not hearing anything even close to that type of rational approach that is required under the law.


So while these rollbacks are widely supported by the fossil fuel industry, and many others here in Wyoming, there's also a lot of folks that I know are concerned.  So, what should they do to make sure their concerns are heard?


I would tell them, I’ve been in the business for thirty-seven years and that there are ebbs and flows in things. I admit this administration makes things a lot more uncertain than I think any other. So, we’re seeing a lot more energy at the state and local level. We’re seeing a lot more business interest in recognizing things like climate change and the need to act and what an economic threat that climate change poses. 


So, the world is not going to end, we have to speak up, we have to be active, we have to be positive. We have to get back to talking with one another and getting back to a good understanding that everybody needs clean air and clean water and we need a stable climate and a good place and home to live, a safe one and a healthy one. Let’s just focus on that for a while. Let’s talk to one another and figure out how to get there again together. Don’t let today divide us, let it bring us together and energize us.