With Staff Changes, EPA Sharpens Climate Focus

BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 9: U.S. Environment Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy attends the opening session of the joint committee of the Environmental Cooperation held at the Diaoyutai State guesthouse on December 9, 2013 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Ng Han Guan - Pool / Getty Images)
National Journal
Amy Harder
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Amy Harder
Dec. 12, 2013, 2:35 p.m.

The head of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency is shuff­ling the agency’s staff to put great­er fo­cus on Pres­id­ent Obama’s cli­mate agenda.

In an an­nounce­ment is­sued last week and ob­tained Thursday by Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily, EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy named Joel Beauvais to be as­so­ci­ate ad­min­is­trat­or for EPA’s policy of­fice, a spot left va­cant when Mi­chael Goo left the post earli­er this fall for the En­ergy De­part­ment.

Beauvais has a back­ground in glob­al warm­ing. He worked on House cap-and-trade le­gis­la­tion from 2007 to 2010 while coun­sel to the now-de­funct Se­lect Com­mit­tee on En­ergy In­de­pend­ence and Glob­al Warm­ing and then as coun­sel to the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

Pri­or to this post, Beauvais was as­so­ci­ate as­sist­ant ad­min­is­trat­or in EPA’s air and ra­di­ation of­fice, which Mc­Carthy led pri­or to her ap­point­ment as ad­min­is­trat­or earli­er this year.

Mc­Carthy also pro­moted Al­isha John­son, pre­vi­ously press sec­ret­ary, to be deputy as­so­ci­ate ad­min­is­trat­or for EPA’s of­fice for ex­tern­al af­fairs and en­vir­on­ment­al edu­ca­tion.

“I am con­fid­ent that in these new roles, Joel and Al­isha will con­tin­ue to be in­stru­ment­al as we im­ple­ment the Pres­id­ent’s Cli­mate Ac­tion Plan and con­tin­ue our work to pro­tect hu­man health and the en­vir­on­ment,” Mc­Carthy said in the Dec. 3 memo mak­ing the an­nounce­ments.

These pro­mo­tions come on the heels of ad­di­tion­al changes Mc­Carthy made to her per­son­al of­fice this sum­mer in a way that, ac­cord­ing to a memo Mc­Carthy sent to staff in Ju­ly, will “em­phas­ize work­ing with the White House and key stake­hold­ers to cre­ate op­por­tun­it­ies to high­light the be­ne­fits of our work.”

The memo high­lights sev­er­al changes in staff work­ing closest with Mc­Carthy.

Lisa Feldt, formerly deputy as­sist­ant ad­min­is­trat­or for EPA’s sol­id waste and emer­gency re­sponse of­fice, is now as­so­ci­ate deputy ad­min­is­trat­or of EPA. Arvin Ganes­an, formerly as­so­ci­ate ad­min­is­trat­or for EPA’s con­gres­sion­al af­fairs and in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al re­la­tions of­fice, is now deputy chief of staff for policy.

Feldt and Ganes­an will fo­cus on a range of is­sues across the agency “in an ef­fort to stream­line our pro­cesses, max­im­ize ef­fi­ciency and identi­fy op­por­tun­it­ies to high­light activ­it­ies that provide the greatest on the ground en­vir­on­ment­al be­ne­fit,” Mc­Carthy said in the memo.

Feldt has been fo­cus­ing heav­ily on policies re­lated to meth­ane emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to sources fa­mil­i­ar with her port­fo­lio. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hand­ling of meth­ane, a green­house gas 20 times more po­tent harm­ful than car­bon di­ox­ide, has faced more scru­tiny as the coun­try be­comes more de­pend­ent on nat­ur­al gas, a fossil fuel that is com­posed primar­ily of meth­ane but burns with half the car­bon emis­sions of coal. It’s for that reas­on the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom in­dic­ates nat­ur­al gas is bet­ter for glob­al warm­ing than coal. But peer-re­viewed stud­ies are rais­ing ques­tions about how much meth­ane is in­ad­vert­ently leaked dur­ing pro­duc­tion and trans­mis­sion of nat­ur­al gas, trig­ger­ing calls from en­vir­on­ment­al­ists for in­creased reg­u­la­tions. EPA has ar­gued that rules is­sued in 2012 to lim­it tra­di­tion­al pol­lut­ants like sul­fur di­ox­ide also have the ef­fect of re­du­cing meth­ane emis­sions.

Tak­ing Ganes­an’s spot in the con­gres­sion­al af­fairs and in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al re­la­tions of­fice is Laura Vaught, who was pre­vi­ously Ganes­an’s deputy. Ac­cord­ing to her Linked­In pro­file, Vaught has worked on Cap­it­ol Hill for more than a dec­ade, in­clud­ing as chief of staff to former Rep. Rick Bouch­er, D-Va., who was in­stru­ment­al in craft­ing the House cap-and-trade bill.

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