EPA Nominee Gina McCarthy Deserves a Senate Grilling

As a top EPA official, McCarthy has been busy writing regulations that drive up energy costs for American families.

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None of the eight Republicans on the Senate committee overseeing Gina McCarthy's confirmation to lead the Environmental Protection Agency appeared at Thursday's committee meeting.

Thomas J. Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research.

Recently, President Obama chose Gina McCarthy to be the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As the EPA's top air regulation official, McCarthy has been busy writing regulations that drive up energy costs for American families.

On Thursday, the Senate is holding a hearing to consider McCarthy's nomination. Congress should seize the opportunity to scrutinize her record. Over the last five years, McCarthy's Office of Air and Radiation churned out numerous rules that make energy more expensive for consumers, impose onerous burdens on energy producers and put human lives at risk.

Take the EPA's new fuel economy mandate for cars and trucks. EPA admits that forcing the automobile fleet to get 54.5 mpg would increase the price of a new car by almost $3,000. Other estimates place the cost at $4,800 per vehicle, which would price about 10 million low-income drivers out of the market.

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

But it gets worse. Forcing automakers to build more fuel efficient cars has led to increased deaths on the road in the past. Estimates of traffic fatalities attributable to fuel economy mandates since the 1970s range from 42,000 to 125,000 preventable deaths. In pursuit of her green agenda, McCarthy pushed to further tighten these standards, thus costing additional human lives.

As if jeopardizing public safety isn't bad enough, McCarthy's rules have also been disingenuous. One example is the mercury and air toxics rule (known as MATS). The MATS rule imposes enormous costs on Americans ($10 billion) with only trivial benefits ($500,000) for the reduction of mercury. EPA justifies the MATS rule through reductions of particulate matter. But if reducing particulate matter is the goal, EPA separately regulates particulate matter, obviating the needs for the MATS rule.   

In addition to costly rules, questionable economics has become a hallmark of the EPA. Under McCarthy's direction, the EPA grossly underestimated the cost of the MATS rule. Testifying before Congress, McCarthy claimed the rule would lead to the closure of only a "modest amount of generating capacity" (4,700 MW). But according to the Institute for Energy Research, the rule will actually shutter at least 35,000 MW, and Barclay's estimates that 42,000 MW will close. McCarthy has yet to explain why her testimony was off by at least 650 percent.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

Despite President Obama's stated commitment "to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government," McCarthy and EPA have refused to release the databases upon which the vast majority of EPA's claimed benefits are based. These datasets were funded by the public and yet EPA does not allow public access to the data.

These are just a few of the issues the Senate should consider while taking to McCarthy. The Institute for Energy Research has more questions for McCarthy here. Her record definitely necessitates rigorous scrutiny. 

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