It is particularly fitting that President Barack Obama nominated Gina McCarthy as our nation’s next Environmental Protection Agency administrator during the same week as International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8.
The EPA is the cop on the beat, and it needs a strong leader to keep it focused on tackling important public health challenges. Having another strong woman at the helm, building on the legacy of strong women who have led the agency in the past, including former administrators Lisa Jackson, Christie Whitman and Carol Browner, would be a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day.
It is also good news for America, the Northeast and Maine in many ways. McCarthy is a Boston native with a track record as an effective, even-handed clean air regulator in Washington, D.C., and a pragmatic protector of the environment at the state level in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
And beyond these qualifications and her regional bona fides, McCarthy has decades of real-world experience transcending party and interest lines to protect our air, water, wildlife and health. This will make her a huge asset as America’s next EPA chief.
McCarthy worked as Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s top environmental advisor, where she brokered a historic pact among industry, environmental, union and state representatives to boost fuel economy. She was also instrumental in efforts to rein in mercury and toxics use and pollution across New England and implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, “RGGI,” to reduce climate-changing pollutants from power plants.
When she worked for Republican Gov. Jodi Rell, as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Quality, McCarthy launched the successful “No Child Left Inside” program that continues to get thousands of kids and families outside today.
McCarthy has also accomplished a great deal as the head of the clean air division of the EPA, where she worked across party lines, listening and responding to the concerns of industry stakeholders, and pursuing reasonable regulations, as needed. As McCarthy has said, “In nearly all cases the more people are involved in making a decision, the better the decision will be.”
McCarthy’s outstanding work under two Republican governors, and over the past four years at the EPA, shows that protecting our health and environment can transcend party affiliation. She understands that guarding the health of our families from dangerous soot, smog, mercury and carbon pollution will save lives and prevent illness.
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, 2012 was the hottest year on record and delivered some of the most extreme weather events that we’ve ever seen. Devastating droughts, deadly heat waves and violent superstorms such as Hurricane Sandy affected nearly every county in the 48 contiguous states. These very real effects have driven up concern for our future.
A poll conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment America, following the president’s State of the Union address, shows that 65 percent of Americans believe climate change is a serious problem and a strong majority (60 percent) support Obama using executive authority to limit the dangerous industrial carbon pollution that is causing climate change.
In the United States, 2013 set a high-water mark for women in positions of national leadership — with the most women elected to Congress ever, including 20 women senators and 82 women representatives. They are poised to lead the nation and should capitalize on the momentum of support to address climate change.
McCarthy has displayed all the talent, dedication and perseverance a great EPA administrator needs. We urge Maine’s delegation and all legislators to support her nomination to help put a top-notch clean air and public health expert at the helm of the EPA.
Lisa Pohlmann is executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Kate Rush is a partner at Evolo Energy Solutions in Newport.