New EPA chief exhorts agency staff to ‘act now on climate change’

The Environmental Protection Agency “has a clear responsibility to act now on climate change,” the agency’s new chief said Monday in a video message to staff.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Obama EPA chief: Trump regulation rollbacks won't hold up legally MORE, who was confirmed to replace Lisa Jackson last week, said the agency has reached a “defining time” in its history as it prepares to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

“We also need your sustained service and your sustained commitment more than ever before because this is a defining time for EPA,” McCarthy said.

The EPA’s efforts to limit emissions from new and existing power plants are at the heart of President Obama’s plan to tackle climate change.

The plan has drawn strong criticism from industry groups and Republican lawmakers, who warn the rules will stifle the economy and put utilities out of business.

Industry groups are fighting the emissions limits for new power plants in court and are expected to mount a similar challenge when the EPA issues rules for power plants that already exist.

Green groups, liberal Democrats and public health organizations have applauded the EPA’s efforts. They say the agency’s actions have helped clean up the air and water, in turn, slowing the effects of climate change and improving people’s health.

McCarthy fired back at critics in the video and exhorted her employees to buckle down for the fight.

“This agency has the courage to act. We can make it happen — but we need all hands on deck,” she said.

The agency figures to remain in the crosshairs of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA MORE (R-Wyo.) is pushing legislation to handicap the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. And Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who heads an Appropriations subcommittee, has promised to make the House EPA spending bill a "battleground" for the administration's climate agenda.

Aside from climate change, McCarthy also said the agency will need to address issues with water infrastructure, improving water quality and updating the nation’s toxic substances laws.

“Together we can and we will rise to today’s challenges, working as one EPA,” she said.