Coal the hot topic at EPA nomination hearing

POTENTIAL Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy faced an onslaught of questions about the future of the US coal industry at her confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Staff Reporter

McCarthy, President Barack Obama’s choice to head the EPA, tried to assure members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the EPA would treat coal fairly, despite being at the helm of the EPA's air pollution division during Obama's first term.

“As the president has made clear, we must take steps to combat climate change,” McCarthy said in her opening address.

“This is one of the greatest challenges of our generation and our great obligation to future generations.

“I am convinced that those steps can and must be pursued with common sense.”

McCarthy defended her agency's proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from any new coal-fired power plants, saying the plan was intended in part to "provide a path forward" for coal.

But Republicans at the hearing disagreed and took direct aim at McCarthy and the EPA’s regulations.

“Are coal miners no longer heroes to the nominee and the EPA?” Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso asked, according to The Washington Post.

He said the EPA was pushing coal miners through a “trap door to joblessness, poverty”

“These people are heroes and they deserve better than they’re getting from the EPA,” he said.

But despite the onslaught of questions complaining about her role in writing the new EPA rules, McCarthy remained confident.

“What I’ve learned from my experience at the state and local level is that environmental protection is not partisan,” McCarthy said – a notion she repeated throughout the extensive questioning period.

“I’ve worked for Republicans, I’ve worked for Democrats and I’ve worked with those who, frankly, could care less about party affiliation and who simply care about rolling up their sleeves and figuring out how to move forward in a common-sense, responsible manner that is consistent with the law and with the science,” she continued.

Senator Barabara Boxer came out in support of McCarthy.

“Gina McCarthy, you are one of the best qualified nominees ever to come before this committee,” Boxer said in a statement.

“Your combination of experience, intelligence, energy, expertise and integrity will make you an effective EPA administrator.

“Why do I believe this nominee is the right person to take the helm at EPA? She has over three decades of public service at the local, state and federal levels and, at a time when there can be a bitter divide in Washington, she has shown a strong bipartisan spirit.”

The standards have yet to go into effect and may be weakened but, as drafted, they would essentially prevent any new coal-fired power plants from being built due to tough emissions guidelines.

No date has been set for a Senate vote on her confirmation.

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