Obama to Name Top Climate-Change Regulator

The White House is expected to fill the EPA slot left vacant by Gina McCarthy’s promotion by naming Janet McCabe, a deputy who will be tasked with navigating the legal hurdles that lie ahead.

(The National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council)
National Journal
Coral Davenport
See more stories about...
Coral Davenport
Aug. 28, 2013, 3:30 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama is ex­pec­ted to nom­in­ate Janet Mc­Cabe, a deputy ad­min­is­trat­or at the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s clean-air of­fice, to head that di­vi­sion, ac­cord­ing to sources fa­mil­i­ar with his think­ing. The po­s­i­tion would put her at the heart of the pres­id­ent’s his­tor­ic and con­tro­ver­sial glob­al-warm­ing agenda. She would be charged with craft­ing massive new pol­lu­tion reg­u­la­tions af­fect­ing the na­tion’s coal-fired power plants — rules that could even­tu­ally freeze the na­tion’s coal in­dustry, but also po­s­i­tion the U.S. as a glob­al lead­er on cli­mate change.

An EPA spokes­man would not con­firm that Obama in­tends to nom­in­ate Mc­Cabe.

In a series of im­pas­sioned speeches this year, Obama has made clear that he wants to make fight­ing cli­mate change a corner­stone of his leg­acy. Just as clear is the cer­tainty that the di­vided, grid­locked Con­gress will not pass the sweep­ing le­gis­la­tion ne­ces­sary to do that. In­stead, Obama will flex his ex­ec­ut­ive muscles, us­ing the au­thor­ity of the EPA to roll out a series of reg­u­la­tions to slash the na­tion’s car­bon pol­lu­tion and fun­da­ment­ally re­shape the na­tion’s en­ergy sec­tor. The rules are already be­ing met with a swarm of polit­ic­al and leg­al push­back. Re­pub­lic­ans charge that with the cli­mate rules, Obama is wa­ging a “war on coal.” Mean­while, the coal in­dustry is pre­pared to meet the rules with an on­slaught of leg­al at­tacks.

That means Mc­Cabe, as the ex­pec­ted chief au­thor of the new cli­mate rules, has a heavy and his­tor­ic lift in front of her. She will step in­to the shoes of her boss, Gina Mc­Carthy, who last month was con­firmed as chief of the EPA. While Mc­Carthy will be the pub­lic face of the new cli­mate-change reg­u­la­tions, Mc­Cabe will act as her right-hand wo­man, tak­ing on the bur­den of draft­ing and leg­ally bul­let­proof­ing the rules, as well as work­ing with all the stake­hold­ers they’ll af­fect — states, elec­tric util­it­ies, con­sumers, and en­vir­on­ment­al ad­voc­ates.

Dur­ing Obama’s first term, Mc­Carthy held that role, as head of the Of­fice of Air and Ra­di­ation, with Mc­Cabe as her deputy. Last month, the White House named Mc­Cabe as act­ing dir­ect­or of that of­fice. Dur­ing her ten­ure, Mc­Carthy won praise from both en­vir­on­ment­al groups and pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries as a straight-talk­ing hon­est broker who in­cluded in­dustry of­fi­cials in the reg­u­lat­ory pro­cess — even if in­dus­tries didn’t al­ways like the out­come.

By all ac­counts, Mc­Cabe is po­si­tioned to con­tin­ue her boss’s leg­acy. Like Mc­Carthy, who served in the en­vir­on­ment de­part­ments of Con­necti­c­ut and Mas­sachu­setts, Mc­Cabe has a back­ground as a state en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­lat­or — ex­per­i­ence that of­fi­cials say will be cru­cial in craft­ing the new rules, giv­en that their im­ple­ment­a­tion ul­ti­mately will be done by state agen­cies.

Ac­cord­ing to her of­fi­cial EPA bio, Mc­Cabe, be­fore join­ing EPA in Novem­ber 2009, was ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Im­prov­ing Kids’ En­vir­on­ment, a chil­dren’s en­vir­on­ment­al-health ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tion based in In­di­ana­pol­is, and was an ad­junct fac­ulty mem­ber at the In­di­ana Uni­versity School of Medi­cine’s De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health. From 1993 to 2005, she held sev­er­al lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions in the In­di­ana De­part­ment of En­vir­on­ment­al Man­age­ment’s Of­fice of Air Qual­ity. She was the of­fice’s as­sist­ant com­mis­sion­er from 1998 to 2005. Be­fore com­ing to In­di­ana in 1993, Mc­Cabe served as the Mas­sachu­setts as­sist­ant at­tor­ney gen­er­al for en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion and as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact re­view. Mc­Cabe gradu­ated from Har­vard Col­lege in 1980 and Har­vard Law School in 1983.

Her ex­per­i­ence as a reg­u­lat­or in In­di­ana will likely serve in her fa­vor. As a state that gen­er­ates about 90 per­cent of its elec­tri­city from coal, In­di­ana is ex­pec­ted to be one of the states hard­est hit by the cli­mate reg­u­la­tions. Both en­vir­on­ment­al­ists and in­dustry of­fi­cials say that back­ground has giv­en her a clear un­der­stand­ing of both the eco­nom­ic and reg­u­lat­ory chal­lenges that lie ahead as she writes rules that will crack down on coal, the na­tion’s biggest con­trib­ut­or to glob­al-warm­ing pol­lu­tion.

“She’s ba­sic­ally been Gina’s right hand and left hand for the last four years,” said Frank O’Don­nell, pres­id­ent of the group Clean Air Watch. “She’s well-po­si­tioned to work with Gina on the cli­mate rules. She’s got a clas­sic­ally good back­ground on it, hav­ing worked in state gov­ern­ment both in In­di­ana and Mas­sachu­setts.”¦ In­di­ana may not be ground zero for the coal in­dustry, but it’s pretty darn close.”

Of­fi­cials at Amer­ic­an Elec­tric Power, an Ohio-based util­ity that owns one of the na­tion’s largest fleet of coal-fired power plants, in­clud­ing plants in In­di­ana, say they are op­tim­ist­ic that Mc­Cabe’s Mid­west­ern back­ground means that she’ll take their in­dustry’s con­cerns un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

John Mc­Manus, vice pres­id­ent of En­vir­on­ment­al Ser­vices for Amer­ic­an Elec­tric Power, wrote in an e-mail to Na­tion­al Journ­al, “We have op­er­a­tions in In­di­ana so we worked with Janet Mc­Cabe when she was with the In­di­ana De­part­ment of En­vir­on­ment­al Man­age­ment. She was will­ing to listen to in­dustry views at that time, and we would hope that if she is named as­sist­ant ad­min­is­trat­or for EPA’s Of­fice of Air and Ra­di­ation, she will con­tin­ue to be re­cept­ive to hear­ing our opin­ions about is­sues and reg­u­la­tions that af­fect our busi­ness.”

Ex­perts in en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tion said that Mc­Cabe will face a huge leg­al chal­lenge in craft­ing the cli­mate-change reg­u­la­tions, which are in many ways un­pre­ced­en­ted in the his­tory of en­vir­on­ment­al law. But they said Mc­Cabe is up to the chal­lenge.

“Janet’s won­der­ful,” said Adam Kush­ner, a part­ner at the en­vir­on­ment­al law firm Hogan Lov­ells, and former dir­ect­or of EPA’s Of­fice of Civil En­force­ment. “She has a very strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Gina. She’s very strong on the leg­al side. Very strong on the pub­lic health side. And she knows where all the bod­ies are bur­ied.”

It’s likely that Mc­Cabe could face a tough Sen­ate con­firm­a­tion pro­cess. Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans held up Mc­Carthy’s con­firm­a­tion for more than 100 days, and bar­raged her with more than 1,000 ques­tions, as coal- and oil-state law­makers at­tacked the EPA for pre­par­ing to is­sue rules that could kill jobs in their home states. However, even if she fails to win Sen­ate con­firm­a­tion, it’s ex­pec­ted that Mc­Cabe could carry out the job with the title of “act­ing” head of the clean-air of­fice.

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×