EPA head: Clean energy train ‘has already left the station’

EPA head: Clean energy train ‘has already left the station’
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The outgoing head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is cautioning against going back on President Obama’s climate agenda.

EPA chief Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyTrump’s budget prioritizes polluters over people Trump pulls US out of Paris deal: What it would mean Regulations, farmers and the law MORE didn’t mention President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpAt center of Qatar crisis, a billion ransom Chaffetz: Threats against lawmakers should be taken seriously Warren cautions Dems against infighting MORE by name at a National Press Club event on Monday, but repeatedly warned against the pitfalls of ignoring climate change or reversing what Obama has done to fight it.

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“Science tells us that there is no bigger threat to American progress and prosperity than the threat of global climate change,” McCarthy said. “And if you take absolutely nothing else from my speech today, take this: The train to a global clean energy future has already left the station.”

Trump believes that climate change is a hoax, and has repeatedly pledged to undo Obama’s global warming policies, including the landmark Clean Power Plan meant to limit carbon dioxide emission from power plants.

McCarthy, who as a political appointee will leave when Obama’s term ends Jan. 20, used her speech less than two months before Trump’s inauguration largely to recap Obama’s environmental policies and urge the country to fight attempts to undo them.

“Over the past eight years under President Obama’s leadership, we have taken tremendous strides forward in economic growth,” she said. “At the same time, we have made incredible progress in cutting pollution and protecting public health.”

The accomplishments include limiting mercury pollution from power plants, restricting ozone and particulate matter in the air, redefining the federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, cleaning up the air around ports and working with Congress to pass a major reform to chemical standards, the first significant environmental law in decades.

The aggressiveness of the agenda frequently led to clashes with congressional Republicans and business groups, who said the EPA often greatly exceeded its legal authority. The GOP tried repeatedly to rein in the agency, with little success.

McCarthy, who previously was an environmental regulator in Massachusetts and Connecticut, made almost no mention of the real threats to Obama’s policies, including the federal courts, Trump and a GOP-led Congress.

But she was nonetheless optimistic about the future of the EPA and environmental policy under Trump and beyond.

“We make progress using science and the law. And we continue to be responsive to change. We do not oppose it,” she said. “That’s how EPA was born. That’s how our mission will exist, far beyond the bounds of electoral cycles. Because at its core, EPA embraces the ideal, ‘E pluribus unum,’ ‘Of many come one.’ Because pollution and health risks, they do not discriminate. And we, like this nation, will always be a place where we draw strength from our differences.”

On specific points related to the Trump transition, McCarthy said the transition team has not yet been in touch with the EPA, but she’s confident that the shift can go smoothly.

“I’m looking forward to a sound transition and getting folks in here so they can see the breadth of the work in the agency and how well we’ve done our job,” she said.

Asked to give advice to whomever Trump nominates to lead the EPA, she said he or she should take special care to learn from the thousands of civil service employees.

“They are experts on these issues,” she said. “They will give you an opportunity to lead. I would suggest you take it.”