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Gina McCarthy says EPA aims to spark US economic growth

McCarthy spoke of the challenges and opportunities of uniting the environment and the economy

Gina McCarthy said that being confirmed as EPA administrator was the “honour of a lifetime”

By Sophie Yeo

There is no dichotomy between the environment and the economy, Gina McCarthy told an audience at Harvard during her inaugural address as administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Addressing an audience at Harvard Law School, she joked, “Can we stop talking about environment regulations killing jobs, please – just for today?”

She said that environmental improvement, rather than slowing the economy, was actually sparking economic growth, and that part of the challenge of climate change today was convincing the public of the advantages of cost effective solutions to environmental improvement.

No one saw Hurricane Sandy as an environmental challenge, she said. The storm, was cost $50 billion to clear up, was regarded as an economic disaster.

All too often, she said, discussion of the environment falls back on a false dichotomy between the health of our children and the health of the economy, whereas in fact, she said, “We need to cut carbon pollution to grow jobs and to strengthen the economy.

“Let’s embrace this as the opportunity of a lifetime because there are too many lives at stake not to.”

Challenges

McCarthy faces a series of tough challenges as she sets to work at the EPA. Top of her list are new regulations for power plants, which are likely to see coal plants close as a result of stringent pollution standards.

Her speech focused on the need to work together with local governments, NGOs, scientists and lawyers, to allow ground level action to filter up to the level of the federal government.

She recalled past environmental efforts at a local level, such as the cleaning up of Boston Harbour – a project towards which she joked she harboured a secret resentment, since it meant she could no longer afford property in the area.

It is, she said, environmental action such as this that “will grow and be models across the US.”

She said, “Climate change efforts and reducing carbon will always win if we approach it in this way, with communities acting on the ground.”

The EPA, she admitted, is facing increasingly complicated challenges, but, she said, “We are not just about rules and regulations.

“We are about getting environmental improvement wherever it makes sense to improve, and that is everywhere.”

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