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Will Gina McCarthy Get Along with Industry?

Gina McCarthy 2More than four months of partisan contention eased slightly yesterday, enough to let the Senate vote 59-40 to confirm Gina McCarthy as EPA administrator.

Rancor is likely to start up again quickly, with Republicans challenging proposed EPA regulations on a number of fronts, especially carbon emissions from power plants. Among the fracas, it may not matter that McCarthy has experience working for several Republican governors, including Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

What will be crucial – and what’s been glossed over in the last few months as the media focused on political objections – will be her experience bridging the gap between government and industry. According to Reuters, McCarthy’s work at state and federal regulators has won confidence from leaders in manufacturing and power plants. When she was first nominated, Intel environment and energy policy director Stephen Harper described her as “a person who really does get it in terms of what industry needs from an EPA leader.” Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, called her nomination an “opportunity for the administration to reset relations with the industry by striking a better balance between environmental and economic issues,” US News reports.

And yesterday, Edison Electric Institute president Tom Kuhn said that McCarthy’s relationship with the sector has been constructive, and she has a “keen understanding of the challenges facing our industry.”

There will always be outliers. When Obama nominated McCarthy, the American Energy Alliance likened her and predecessor Lisa Jackson to Raul and Fidel Castro. Mining and utility companies have also accused her of waging a “war on coal.” And there certainly won’t be a sea change – expect the same maneuvering to block EPA regulations at every possible point, on both legislative and legal fronts. But if McCarthy can find opportunities for dialog with industry, it could enable her agency to craft regulations that only take forever to squeak through – instead of forever and a day.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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