President Elect Joe Biden has picked Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Barack Obama and president of the leftist environmental group National Resources Defense Council, to become his climate czar. The position does not require Senate confirmation, but would have significant impact across the federal government as McCarthy is expected to guide climate policy at Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and even Treasury.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the Donald J. Trump administration more than 100 times for environmental policies including energy efficiency regulations and protections for threatened species.
But McCarthy does not come to the post without a resume that includes controversies.
Obama nominated McCarthy to head the EPA on March 4, 2013. She was confirmed after a record 136-day confirmation fight.
Toxic Mine Spill
McCarthy was tapped to pursue Obama’s agenda of climate change, global warming, and using regulation to save the environment. But in August of 2015 McCarthy was forced to apologize for an EPA mine cleanup that caused a toxic mix of lead and arsenic to spill from the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado, contaminating rivers in that state and waterways in New Mexico and Utah.
“McCarthy said she is ‘deeply sorry’ and it ‘pains me to no end’ to see the orange-colored toxic stream unleashed in the West,” NBC reported. “Calling the spill a ‘tragic and unfortunate accident,’ she took full responsibility for the waste oozing from an abandoned mine into the Animas River.”
“We are going to move as quickly as we can,” McCarthy said to reporters following a speech in Washington, DC, and said her agency was “working around the clock” to prevent the mine waste from moving further downstream.
“It does take time to review and analyze data,” McCarthy said. “As far as I know, we have been thankful that there is no reported cases of anyone’s health being compromised.”
Perjury Prompts Impeachment Probe
Controversy continued the next month when an impeachment effort against McCarthy took place, as USA Today reported in an article subtitled, “Is impeachment the only solution for lack of executive accountability?” According to the report:
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has introduced a resolution of impeachment against her because he says she lied during testimony about the EPA’s new clean water rules. Says Gosar: “Perjury before Congress is perjury to the American people and an affront to the fundamental principles of our republic and the rule of law. Such behavior cannot be tolerated. My legislation will hold Administrator McCarthy accountable for her blatant deceptions and unlawful conduct.”
McCarthy is accused of perjuring herself three times, in discussing the scientific and engineering basis for those rules. So, you might wonder, why not just prosecute her for perjury?
The problem is that criminal prosecutions are brought by the executive branch, and there’s not much chance that Obama administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch will bring a perjury prosecution against a fellow member of the administration. And there’s nothing Congress can do to change that. Congress could choose to hold McCarthy in contempt of Congress — as it did, in fact, to Lynch’s predecessor, former attorney general Eric Holder — but contempt of Congress is enforced by the executive branch, too.
Social Media Propaganda Charge
McCarthy survived that effort, but was in the controversy spotlight again in February of 2016, according to a Morning Consult report that said she was trying to influence the outcome of the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that included regulating water on private property:
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy says her agency did nothing wrong when it used social media to promote a major water rule during a public comment period. But on Thursday, she also said she would change the agency’s promotion policies after the Government Accountability Office said the EPA illegally engaged in “propaganda.”
“I think the word ‘propaganda’ is always construed as something horrible,” McCarthy testified at a House Agriculture Committee, adding that the EPA disagrees with GAO’s conclusion that the agency broke the law.
That prompted Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) to respond, “You were lobbying the people who lobby us.” Republicans have said that in Iowa, the rule would give the EPA authority over about 97 percent of the state’s land. Opponents also say it could lead the EPA to regulate very small water supplies, including farmers’ ditches and man-made ponds. The rule includes exemptions for agriculture, but Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said he isn’t convinced that a few carve-outs will undo the additional red tape the rule creates.
McCarthy would be the first climate adviser in the White House.
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