Outside groups put pressure on GOP to confirm EPA nominee

A pair of business and environmental organizations are mounting an advertising blitz against GOP senators that they hope will break the impasse over Environmental Protection Agency nominee Gina McCarthy.

Republican senators have placed a hold on McCarthy’s nomination, and there are rumblings that the party might filibuster her nomination when it comes to the floor.

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The groups are trying to ward off that possibility by pressuring GOP lawmakers who have in the past supported or been linked to centrist or liberal energy policies.

The Sierra Club is the latest group to enter the fray with an ad campaign in Phoenix and Cincinnati that runs through July 15.

The ads say Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) “have the chance to get Washington moving again by supporting a smart, experienced, bipartisan leader who has what it takes to protect our air and water from dangerous pollution.”

McCain once championed cap-and-trade legislation for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, though he no longer does so. Flake introduced carbon tax legislation as a House member in 2009, though his office said it was simply a maneuver to offset a sweeping cap-and-trade bill moving through the lower chamber. And Portman is trying to shepherd a comprehensive energy efficiency bill through the Senate.

Sierra Club declined to disclose how much it was spending on the TV campaign, but said Cincinnati residents would see an ad between two and four times while those in Phoenix will see an ad between three and five times.

Republicans have said they're blocking McCarthy because she hasn’t fully answered questions about transparency at the EPA. They also want her to turn over information the EPA uses to craft air- and water-pollution regulations.

McCarthy’s boosters have stressed her experience working under Republican administrations — including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The Sierra Club endeavor comes on the heels of a “mid-six figure ad buy” from the American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund. That initiative spanned Tuesday and Wednesday, targeting viewers in Maine, New Hampshire and Ohio.

The business association is flexing on Portman, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is considered a centrist on energy issues, with ads contending that small businesses favor McCarthy.

“Gina has spent her career making sure environmental protection and economic interest work together. That’s why a recent poll showed that 62 percent of small businesses support her for EPA administrator,” the ad says.