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 »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×