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) McCarthyPruitt granted extension to file financial disclosure form Pruitt's 24/7 security requested over fears of Trump policy backlash EPA documents detail threats against Pruitt 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.

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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 BarrassoSenate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Watchdog to probe EPA email preservation 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.