WASHINGTON — EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on Tuesday insisted that environmental regulations do not kill jobs but actually create new working opportunities and strengthen the economy.
McCarthy delivered the unusual message at Harvard Law School as part of her first policy address since taking over the agency two weeks ago.
“We need to cut carbon pollution to grow jobs, we need to cut carbon pollution to strengthen the economy,” McCarthy said.
“Let’s approach this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake to not embrace it this way,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy spent little time discussing water and air pollution, the cornerstones of the agency’s regulatory powers, and instead focused nearly her entire speech on climate change and how the planet would benefit from costly new rules created by the EPA
The speech revealed new messaging strategies for the Obama administration when she declared that “Climate change isn’t an environmental issue,” or that Hurricane Sandy was not an environmental problem but rather one of economic devastation.
“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs?” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said that states and unions would be consulted before issuing new rules, but that Congress would not: New regulations will be passed by executive fiat.
“I have little doubt that the president knew the challenge that he was handing to me and to others in the administration and that he was embracing himself: To stop relying on Congress to act on an issue that is too important to wait,” McCarthy said.
“We will act, we will be smart,” McCarthy added.
McCarthy addressed fracking and the Keystone pipeline during the question and answer period following her speech, and signaled that new regulatory action is on the horizon for the gas and oil industry.
Responding to a recent report that claims natural gas development in North Dakota has caused significant flaring in the past two years, McCarthy said her agency is designing new methane rules, especially for western states.
“I remember seeing a satellite photo … of all the lights now because of the flaring that is going on. I will tell you I had no idea, being from New England, that there was so much stuff going on I knew nothing about. I know it now,” McCarthy said.
A Sierra Club member asked if McCarthy could in any way envision the Keystone pipeline as having a significant impact on climate change.
The Obama administration angered environmentalists when it declared that the pipeline would not significantly increase carbon emissions.
“EPA does not have all the answers, in case you haven’t quite figured that out lately,” McCarthy said.
“I knew when I worked for a state that I disagreed with some of the answers they were coming up with, and I am sure we will continue to have those disagreements and those dialogues, but I will honestly tell you that that is how it is supposed to be,” McCarthy said.
“I think the best EPA can do is be an honest commenter and continue to work with the administration and the State Department,” McCarthy said.
“I will say that EPA can be hard to work with, but it’s not supposed to be easy. My obligation is to make sure that all voices are heard, and I will continue to do that,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said her agency would find a way to improve the environment wherever it is needed, “and frankly, that is everywhere.”
“This is a wicked cool exciting time for me,” said the gray-haired mother of four and self-described child of the 60s.