The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Gina McCarthy, joined moms in Atlanta last night to talk about air pollution and ways we can work together to provide cleaner air for our kids. The theme of her remarks was clear: “Keep talking.” She urged us to “keep making the case that the march to clean power is happening, that it’s the best thing we can do for America, it’s the best thing we can do for our economy and it’s a necessary thing for our kid’s future. ” The event was co-hosted by Moms Clean Air Force and Mothers & Others for Clean Air, where I am pleased to serve on the Leadership Board. Local moms and leaders from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability, Georgia Conservancy, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia State University, and others also attended the event.
The Administrator, nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2013, has been a champion in the U.S. fight to slow climate change. She believes climate change is a personal issue and that public health is an environmental issue. These beliefs guide her leadership: She is spearheading efforts that include fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy duty trucks, cutting methane from the oil and gas sector, reducing hydrofluorocarbons, reducing emissions from landfills, reducing carbon from power plants (Clean Power Plan) and other measures to support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
Specifically on methane, the Administrator aims to have four new rules to reduce methane emissions “over the finish line” this Spring. One of those rules will require even small sources of methane leaks to report their emissions. Those small sources add up. New studies have shown that the amount of methane leaking has been grossly underestimated. Regulating leaks from the oil and gas industry offer tremendous opportunities for slowing climate change. In response to questions about methane regulation, she noted that “I’m asking them to capture all of their product —so, they can sell it! This is a really good thing economically.”
The Clean Power Plan, our country’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution, was recently stayed by the Supreme Court pending resolution of litigation against the rule. The Clean Power Plan is being fought tooth and nail by the fossil fuel industry, many of our region’s governors, utilities, and state regulatory agencies, as you’ve read in our previous blogs.
Despite the stay of the Clean Power Plan, Administrator McCarthy affirms the rule is “legally solid” and is confident it will move forward. I asked Administrator McCarthy about options for utilizing Section 115 of the Clean Air Act as a regulatory pathway (as we outlined in a recent blog), if the courts decide the rule is invalid. She explained that while it is certainly an option, it would be complex and new terrain for the agency (the EPA has never used that tool before). She emphasized that Section 111(d) is the best option.
We appreciate Administrator McCarthy for taking the time during her travels to discuss these critical issues with us. As a mom, I’m grateful to her for her fierce leadership to protect our air quality and improve the lives of our families and children. We will keep fighting.