Outgoing EPA Chief Gina McCarthy Reveals Fears Trump Administration Will Halt Climate Action
EPA staff are ‘nervous’ after the president-elect promised to reduce the environment agency to ‘tidbits’
By Oliver Milman
There is “nervousness” among Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff that Donald Trump’s incoming administration will sideline science and reverse action on climate change, according to the agency’s outgoing administrator, Gina McCarthy.
Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program, Flickr
McCarthy told The Guardian that the Trump administration would face resistance from multiple fronts if it ran counter to a widespread shift to renewable energy, as well as scientific opinion, by rejecting climate science and attempting to bolster the fossil fuel industry.
Trump has promised to reduce the EPA to “tidbits” and has nominated the Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, to run the agency. Pruitt has sued the EPA 14 times over its pollution regulations, has questioned established climate science and has been criticized by environment groups for his ties to oil and gas interests.
“People at the EPA will be respectful of the new administration but they will continue to do their jobs,” said McCarthy, who was appointed by Barack Obama in 2009 to head the regulator. “I would not be telling the truth if I said there was no sense of nervousness. There is a sense of nervousness that the new administration will take decisions not in line with the science.”
“If they don’t take notice of the science, we will be back to where we were before the last president. We’ve done everything we can to not only reduce greenhouse gases but also send the world a message about the seriousness of the issue. I hope the rest of the world realizes that the vast majority of people here accept that seriousness and that we will remain part of the international action regardless of what the new administration does.”
Trump has previously threatened to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement but Rex Tillerson, his pick for secretary of state, said last week that the new administration still wanted a “seat at the table” during the climate talks.
EPA action to reduce emissions appears more likely to be axed, however, with the new president expected to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which sets emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, and do little to enforce regulations that curb pollutants from mining and transportation.
But McCarthy said even if the federal government reverses course on climate change, progress will still be made. “Cities are making changes, local communities are taking action, there’s continued investment from the business community,” she said. “They will continue to step up and there’s no way these people will be put in a bubble during this administration. The world is moving towards climate action.”
McCarthy said she had sought to reach out to Pruitt but had so far had no response. “Climate change is real, it’s happening, it’s a challenge and I want to talk to him about that,” she said.
Christine Todd Whitman, who was EPA administrator under George W Bush, has warned there may be a “war” within the agency should Pruitt embark upon a strident deregulation agenda. Republicans in Congress, however, are broadly supportive of the nominee.
Research released last year found that the US is on course to miss its emissions reduction targets, submitted as part of the Paris deal, without the Clean Power Plan. This would push the world beyond a 2C warming threshold that would bring about dangerous climate change, such as damaging sea level rises, heatwaves and displaced people.