WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers yesterday told the new nominee expected to head to the troubled Environmental Protection Agency that killing jobs and eliminating entire industries is not the public health mission Congress intended when it created the federal department.
In its zeal to impose clean air and water regulations and protect the planet against global warming, the agency has crippled the coal industry and other mining operations, and put a stranglehold on energy development, the lawmakers said during Gina McCarthy’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“I’m not sure whether the nominee before us today is personally aware of so many folks who have actually lost their jobs because of the EPA and the role that I believe it is taking now, which is failing our country,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).
“How many more times, if confirmed, will this EPA director pull the regulatory lever and allow another mining family to fall through the EPA’s trap door to joblessness, to poverty and to poor health?” Barrasso asked.
McCarthy avoided directly answering specific questions from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, pledging numerous of times to consider or study a particular issue.
She was asked if she would cancel the agency’s plans to create a national database containing the confidential information of concentrated animal feeding operations. The plan recently came to light after the EPA released information already collected on 80,000 operations to litigious environmental groups. The EPA asked the environmentalist groups to return all of the records after Congress learned of the incident.
“What I will commit to because I’m not familiar with this database is to continue the path forward that acting administrator (Bob) Perciaspe has taken which is to get that information back. I know there is great concern that information went out, I understand that concern and I would do everything I could to make sure that those errors are not repeated,” McCarthy said.
The nominee also declined to answer questions regarding the Obama administration’s plans for crafting new regulations to address global warming except to say it is “the greatest obligation we have to future generations.” New rules for power generating plants are expected to completely eliminate the use of coal to create electricity.
Republicans also asked that McCarthy use her own name on email accounts instead of an alias to correspond inside and outside of the agency – a practice revealed last year that critics said served to hide official actions from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA).
Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson crafted an alias using her hometown and dog’s name, “Richard Winsor,” for email communications. Government watchdogs are still being blocked from reviewing all of Jackson’s correspondence requested under a FOIA that revealed the practice.
Democrats praised McCarthy as a bipartisan choice for the job, because she has served in several Republican administrations including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell. Currently. McCarthy is already employed by the EPA serving as a key regulator of air quality.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), committee chairman, said she expects “smooth sailing” for McCarthy’s confirmation. However, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has placed a hold on the nominee blocking a full Senate vote because of differences with the agency over a Missouri flood project.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also says he is concerned with President Barack Obama’s pick and that she “would continue to foster this administration’s radical environmental and anti-coal jobs agenda.”
A committee vote to move the confirmation to the full Senate has not been scheduled.