Gina McCarthy, who has served for the past four years as assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, responded to questions from a Senate committee on April 11 in a hearing on her nomination to become the next administrator of the EPA.

Though McCarthy is likely to be confirmed, Republicans used the hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works as an opportunity to underscore their dissatisfaction with the agency. The nominee’s testimony before committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-La.) was preceded by a release yesterday from Vitter and fellow committee Republicans titled “Requests cover EPA’s dubious emails, secret science behind rulemaking, and sue-and-settle.” Sen. Boxer got McCarthy on the record as supporting Freedom of Information Act requests and other transparency measures and noted that Republican-appointed EPA administrators have also used unofficial email addresses.

When asked by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) whether she would “say no” to anyone, including the president, if asked to shortcut regulatory procedures, McCarthy responded, “I will abide by the highest standard that the law and the science hold me to.”

Several Republicans criticized what they see as the agency’s attack on business via regulations, blaming them for job losses, particularly in coal mining. Others used the occasion to express skepticism about global warming. McCarthy repeatedly said that, if confirmed, the EPA under her leadership would be guided by the best science and voiced her belief that coal will continue to be “a significant source of energy in the United States.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D.-Md.) noted that there were more differences of opinion between members of the committee than with the nominee.

In spite of the predictable barbs from Republicans and support from Democrats, McCarthy insisted that environmental protection is a nonpartisan issue.

McCarthy, who has also worked at state and local levels, repeatedly used variants of the term “flexibility” in describing how she thought the EPA and industry and states should work together. “What I’ve learned from my experience at the state and local level,” she said in her prepared comments, “is that environmental protection is not partisan. 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.”

McCarthy also addressed the issue of climate change, saying, “As the President has made clear, we must take steps to combat climate change. 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. And I firmly believe they can produce not only benefits for public health, but also create markets for emerging and new technologies and new jobs.”

Sen. Boxer noted that there is no agreed-upon date for the confirmation decision.

Sources: U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

Gail Reitenbach, PhD, Managing Editor (@POWERmagazine, @GailReit)

This story was originally published on April 11