The Obama administration has no intention of backing down on major environmental initiatives to fight climate change and improve air and water quality, EPA chief Gina McCarthy said Monday, dismissing Republican threats to thwart proposed regulations by starving the agency of money.
The administration’s top environmental regulator said she was moving forward with plans for tougher limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, suggesting that both the White House and the public would object to any congressional effort to hamstring the agency.
“I feel very confident that the American people understand the value of the EPA,” McCarthy said at a news conference nearly two weeks after the midterm elections that gave Republicans control of both the House and Senate.
McCarthy appeared to be rejecting statements by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the presumptive Senate majority leader in the next Congress, who last week accused President Obama of waging war against the coal industry and vowed to fight the administration’s environmental proposals “in any way that we can.”
“So he had a war on coal and, honestly, I’m going to go to war with him over coal,” McConnell told the Courier-Journal of Louisville in an interview Friday.
McConnell joined other key Republican lawmakers in suggesting that the new Congress would use its budget authority to block controversial proposals intended to scale back greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce pollution levels in air and water.
Republicans and some coal-state Democrats are particularly hostile to a proposed clean-power rule that would require states to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from coal-burning utility plants.
The proposal is a pillar of the White House’s plan for meeting its promises to sharply reduce total U.S. emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for warming the planet.
In her comments to reporters, McCarthy rejected the notion of a “war on coal,” asserting that the coal industry’s declining fortunes in recent years have been driven by market forces, including cheaper natural gas and falling prices for solar and wind power. She said the EPA’s regulations would help reduce emissions from coal burning while giving states flexibility in deciding how the cuts should be made.
“We are following the way the energy world is actually developing,” she said. “It is not specifically targeted at coal. . . . We expect it to remain part of the energy mix.”
McCarty said the EPA also remained committed to issuing new guidelines in the coming weeks on emissions of methane — another powerful greenhouse gas — while also meeting a legal deadline to revise air-quality standards on ground-level ozone, a component in urban smog. She declined to discuss the specifics of the two pending measures.
Asked about the Republican threat to block the EPA’s funding, McCarthy noted deep support for robust climate-change policies by both the White House and large majorities of Americans of both major political parties.
“The American people want the EPA to continue to protect them and their families, and most importantly, their kids,” she said. “That’s the reason we’re focused on climate change, and that’s certainly the reason we’re focused on other pollutions standards.”