- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In her first speech since taking over the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy came out swinging Tuesday and promised to ramp up the aggressive climate change agenda laid out by President Obama.

The outspoken Ms. McCarthy, who two weeks ago emerged from a bruising 136-day Senate confirmation battle, also dismissed criticism that her agency is responsible for killing jobs and crushing the U.S. coal industry.

The White House’s clean-energy approach and a serious effort to cut carbon emissions, she added, will produce jobs, not destroy them.

“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs? Please, at least for today,” she said during remarks at Harvard Law School. “We need to cut carbon pollution to grow jobs. We need to cut carbon pollution to strengthen the economy. Let’s talk about it positively. Let’s approach this as an opportunity of a lifetime. There are too many lifetimes at stake.”

The Obama administration long has contended that “green” jobs and wind, solar and other alternative forms of power will propel the American economy, not hold it back.

Congressional Republicans and many in the energy industry see things differently. They point to the EPA’s unprecedented regulatory footprint, which has carried dire consequences for the coal sector and the jobs associated with it.

Proposed EPA rules to limit carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants — written by Ms. McCarthy during her time as head of the agency’s air and radiation office — already have resulted in the cancellations of planned projects and the elimination of thousands of potential jobs.

Earlier this year, Chase Power announced that it would scrap a planned $3 billion coal-fired plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, because of EPA regulations. The facility would have provided nearly 4,000 jobs, the company said.

Similar plant closings have taken place or are scheduled in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and elsewhere. An analysis by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that at least 280 plants in 32 states are scheduled to be shut down, partly because of EPA regulations.

Those regulations and other related steps by the administration collectively have become known as the “war on coal,” a term used frequently within the energy industry, among congressional Republicans and even by some coal-state Democrats.

The “war” will continue over the next three years as the EPA expands its power-plant regulations to existing facilities, all in the name of fighting climate change.

“Climate change will not be resolved overnight,” Ms. McCarthy said. “But it will be engaged over the next three years — that I can promise you.”

Ms. McCarthy, who also helped author fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, promised that the EPA won’t take significant steps in the battle against climate change without consulting its state and local partners.

“We listen to what’s done on the ground, and eventually that is loud enough that people hear that in D.C. and they take action,” she said.