By Anthony Adragna
Senate Republicans stepped up attacks June 26 on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, one day after President Obama announced plans to have the agency regulate carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) said they will oppose the nomination on the Senate floor, and Boozman told BNA that Republicans will discuss whether to filibuster McCarthy's nomination.
Barrasso indicated for the first time that several Democrats also are likely to oppose the nomination, but he would not identify the senators. His office declined further comment.
“The president made a decision to give this speech, and I think it has an impact on her nomination,” Barrasso told reporters.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told reporters June 25 that he is uncertain about how the nomination process for McCarthy will play out over the next few weeks.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “still wants the EPA to satisfy … five transparency requests,” and “yesterday's speech hasn't changed this at all,” according to Vitter spokesman Luke Bolar.
Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who has said EPA policy about permitting of mountaintop coal mines will determine his vote on McCarthy, characterized the president's plan as a “war on coal.”
McCarthy, who serves as assistant EPA administrator for air and radiation, was nominated by Obama to head the agency in March. Her nomination has been stalled over concerns about the agency's transparency in divulging the methodology it uses to write rules that many Republicans oppose (44 ER 1613, 5/31/13).
Obama called on Senate Republicans to end their “obstruction” on the McCarthy nomination and confirm her in his June 25 speech announcing his “national plan” for addressing climate change (see related story).
Republicans June 26 said the speech was too great of an expansion of executive power and would damage the American economy through costly regulations (see related story).
Barrasso said McCarthy was either “arrogant or ignorant” when she told the Senate Environment and Public Works committee the agency was “not currently” conducting a rulemaking on existing power plants. In his June 25 remarks, the president laid out a timetable for EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.
“Either she knew [EPA planned to regulate existing power plants] and wasn't truthful with the committee, and if she didn't know she should have known because she already has such an important role,” Barrasso said.
EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe would be a “better choice” to head the agency, Barrasso said.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has long professed a strong personal relationship with McCarthy, told BNA Obama's speech made him less likely to support her nomination because “I believe she had to be aware of” the agency's intent to regulate existing power plants.
Whitehouse told reporters after the president's speech that the McCarthy nomination would be considered soon, but he said he is “not confident” she would be confirmed.
“A different EPA administrator won't change the president's directive,” Whitehouse said. “She's proven to work well with industry and Republicans.”
The offices of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), all from states with large coal industries or who are up for reelection in 2014, were not available to comment on whether they would support the McCarthy nomination.
“The regulations the President wants to force on coal are not feasible. And if it's not feasible, it's not reasonable,” Manchin said in a June 25 statement. “It's clear now that the President has declared a war on coal.”
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