Obama-Era EPA Head Doesn’t Believe U.S. Can Both Create Jobs and Protect the Environment

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy complained to Congress this week that the current EPA is doing too much to propel economic growth and boost job creation.

Along with other former EPA chiefs from both parties, McCarthy – who served under President Obama – testified at a hearing held by the House Energy & Commerce Committee, where she grumbled:

“I’m tired of hearing decisions being made where we solely talk about how much it’s reduced manufacturers’ costs. That’s not the mission of the agency.”

She also noted that the Trump EPA seems committed to rolling back Obama-era regulations that she shepherded through the agency, first as assistant administrator for Air and Radiation and later as administrator.  One of the biggest embarrassments EPA suffered was the White House’s rejection of its planned ozone rule, which would have been the most expensive regulation in history.

McCarthy faced stiff pushback from Republicans on the committee who believe that promoting job growth and protecting the environment doesn’t have to be an either-or choice, but that both can be accomplished together.

Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the ranking Republican on the committee, said:

“Too often people fall into the trap of assuming a clean environment is incompatible with economic growth and job creation. But we can and must have both.”

Creating Jobs and Protecting the Environment Can Both Be Achieved

Walden’s perspective is backed up by some of the latest data coming from the oil and gas industry. According to the Wall Street Journal, workers in that sector are the best paid in America with their median pay hitting $117,000 a year.  Similarly, CNBC noted that the top paying college major in America is petroleum engineering at $169,000 a year. And many of the other top-10 majors cited by the network can also be found in the industry.

At the same time, air emissions in the United States have decreased while oil and natural gas production has grown dramatically over the past decade,  a testament to the industry’s vast improvements in technology to protect the environment. Annual CO2 emissions in the United States declined by 758 million metric tons – the largest decline of any country in the world – from 2005 to 2017.

An Energy In Depth analysis found that methane emissions from onshore U.S. oil and natural gas production fell 24 percent, while oil and natural gas production rose 65 percent and 19 percent, respectively, from 2011 to 2017, according to data from the EPA and the Energy Information Administration.

Natural gas has played a key role in this development. Since 2005, natural gas has cut 50 percent more emissions than wind and solar power combined and is responsible for 61 percent of U.S. power sector CO2 reductions.

McCarthy’s position that the nation either has to pick jobs or the environment doesn’t conform with the achievement of the oil and gas sector in recent years.

EPA is Committed to Streamlining Regulations

The congressional hearing and McCarthy’s testimony come less than a month after the EPA released a memo that promotes the view that economic growth and protecting the environment go hand-in-hand. Current EPA chief Andrew Wheeler wrote:

“As the U.S. Environmental Agency works to advance its mission of protecting public health and the environment, the agency should ensure that its regulatory decisions are rooted in sound, transparent and consistent approaches to evaluating benefits and costs.”

Wheeler tasked the agency with reforming its process for conducting cost-benefit analyses of proposed rules, which he said is “in need of greater clarity, transparency, and consistency.” Industry leaders and others have for years complained that EPA overestimates benefits and underestimates the costs of its rules.

The move to bring more consistency to the rulemaking process comes as Wheeler and his agency  face fierce opposition and aggressive tactics from environmental activists that seek to smear the reputation of EPA employees, as a proxy war to undermine his agenda.

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