Not being able to sell rural voters on the importance of switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind power is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy’s biggest regret, she said Friday.
“We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but … has it changed the rhetoric that people hear? It hasn’t,” McCarthy said in an interview at EPA headquarters. “We couldn’t get it, but I wish we had.”
President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to lead the agency in 2013. Her tenure has been riddled with controversies and marred by heavy-handed regulatory maneuvers.
She implement controversial environmental regulations such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) — which are viewed as job-killers in coal country — and told reporters earlier this year that she gave up talking to “climate deniers.”
“I don’t check out flat Earth society and I’m not talking to climate deniers,” she said in October. “That’s it. Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be for everybody, but my patience has worn thin over eight years.”
Republican lawmakers even demanded she resign after the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill in 2015, a disaster that dumped nearly 3 million gallons of toxic mine wastewater ran into a Colorado river, contaminating the drinking water for thousands of people.
McCarthy’s hard-nosed regulatory scheme eventually paved the way for then-presidential nominee Donald Trump to successfully campaign in coal states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Trump campaigned throughout the election season on resuscitating the beleaguered coal industry.
The president-elect capitalized on the coal industry’s stumbles — more than 4,800 coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky lost their jobs during the Obama administration, according to Energy Information Administration.
Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a strident EPA critic, in December to head the agency. The Sooner State Republican made no bones about his animus toward the CPP, along with the Paris agreement forged by Obama and approved by McCarthy.
McCarthy said the shift toward green energy projects would move forward despite Trump and Pruitt’s preference for fossil fuels. The new EPA chief will “come in here with policies he wants to implement and changes he wants to make,” she said.
But most of their objectives will be hampered, McCarthy added, by gains made throughout the past few years in green energy.
“These are today’s technologies not yesterday’s,” she said of solar and wind power. “These are the jobs of tomorrow, not of yesterday.”
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