Trucking Hails Obama’s Choice, Gina McCarthy, to Oversee EPA

By Michele Fuetsch, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the March. 11 print edition of Transport Topics.

President Obama has nominated Gina McCarthy, an expert on clean air regulations and no stranger to the trucking industry, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

McCarthy is currently assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, which administers the nation’s Clean Air Act.

The president also said at a March 4 press conference he was nominating Ernest Moniz as energy secretary. Moniz is a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Both Moniz and McCarthy must be confirmed by the Senate. Obama has yet to nominate a replacement for Ray LaHood as transportation secretary.

McCarthy’s selection prompted praise from trucking leaders who have worked with her at EPA and when she was an administrator at state environmental agencies in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“We’ve had tremendous experience working with Gina McCarthy during her time at EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air  Quality,” said Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations. That office is one of four that the Office of Air and Radiation oversees.

Under McCarthy, her office helped develop the Obama administration’s heavy-duty truck standards on greenhouse-gas emissions, which were unveiled in August 2011, at the same time the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the first fuel-economy standards for trucking.

“While running OTAQ, McCarthy became familiar with SmartWay, with the recently enacted heavy-duty truck fuel-efficiency standards and a whole host of issues important to trucking,” Graves said. “She’s shown herself to be an effective leader and willing to listen to industry concerns when they arise.”

SmartWay is a partnership between EPA and the trucking industry that tests products and develops strategies carriers can use to reduce fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Mike Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, worked with McCarthy when she headed that state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“She is smart,” Riley said. “She is easily approachable. She gets it and is not an ideologue.”

Riley also said McCarthy’s staff mirrored her view that business was not the enemy.

“She’s no pushover,” he added. “We’re going to have to convince her that our positions are legitimate, but she’ll listen to you, and she’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”

If Obama gives her an ambitious agenda on climate change, “she’ll take it on, and she’ll chip away at it but [not] in an offensive and abrasive way,” Riley said. “She’ll talk and cajole and convince.”

Anne Lynch, executive director of the Massachusetts Motor Transportation Association, also has dealt with McCarthy, when she was deputy director at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“She’s hardworking; she’s very open to considering all perspectives,” said Lynch. “She’s kind of a consensus builder.”

Troy Clarke, an executive with Navistar International Corp. who will become CEO on April 15, also weighed in, calling McCarthy an “excellent choice.”

“Over the last several years, our company has worked successfully with Ms. McCarthy and her organization through complex and consequential matters, and throughout the process, we’ve found her to be a fair and thoughtful partner in seeking solutions,” Clark said in a statement.

McCarthy would succeed Lisa Jackson, who last month ended four years as EPA administrator.

Graves said ATA has had “less direct experience” with Moniz than McCarthy but “looks forward to educating him about trucking’s continuing need for predictable and affordable supplies of diesel fuel and natural gas.”

Moniz was an early supporter of natural-gas use. An increasing number of fleets are including natural-gas trucks in their fleets.

Moniz was co-chairman of a 2011 MIT study on natural gas that concluded the nation’s “ample supply” of natural gas, its price differential relative to diesel, and greenhouse-gas emissions constraints present “an opportunity to lessen oil dependence in favor of a domestically supplied fuel.”

The study, however, has been cited by environmentalists as evidence Moniz supports the natural-gas industry over environmentalists who believe the industry’s extraction practices are harmful.

Elgie Holstein, who was chief of staff at the U.S. Energy Department when Moniz was an undersecretary during the Clinton administration, told Transport Topics the criticism is unjustified.

While Moniz has said natural gas can help meet energy needs, he also has said supplies “carry with them some new potential problems that need to be managed,” said Holstein, senior director for strategic planning at the Environmental Defense Fund.