Four Things to Know About Gina McCarthy, Obama's Pick to Head the EPA

Gina McCarthy was Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner . Gina McCarthy was Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner . Jack Sauer/AP file photo

President Obama is poised to pick Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, to head the EPA, Reuters reports. Here’s a few things you should know about McCarthy:

  1. She’s a tough-talking and enthusiastic Bostonian. McCarthy, who hails from Dorchester, Mass., is Irish Catholic and speaks with a pronounced Boston accent. The approach she’s taken to her work at EPA earned her the nickname “Obama’s green quarterback” from some environmentalists.

    A proud Bostonian, McCarthy once described in a speech getting to yell “Play ball!” at a Boston Red Sox baseball game. “Now, there’s nothing cooler than that,” she said. “I did it with real gusto. Should I do it again? Play balllll!” (McCarthy is also is known for her sense of humor.)

  2. She’s a social anthropologist. McCarthy studied social anthropology as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts-Boston before going on to receive a joint Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy from Tufts University, which is also in the Boston area.

    The former degree may seem less relevant to her current post than the latter. “People ask me why did social anthropology prepare you for the work that you’re doing in government? Well, everyone who asked me that, I wondered if they had ever been in the Massachusetts legislature, whether they had ever been in the Connecticut legislature, and whether they had ever visited Congress recently, because it is a primitive society into itself,” McCarthy joked. But really, she said, it taught her to “relish diversity.” 

  3. She’s a long-time government official, and even worked for Mitt Romney. All told, McCarthy has been working for federal and state governments for over 25 years. Her career has spanned five Massachusetts governors, including former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, one Connecticut governor, Jodi Rell, under whom she ran the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. She was confirmed to EPA and came to Washington, D.C., in 2009. 
  4. Her confirmation won’t be a picnic. Obama, who vowed to make tackling the threat of climate change a second-term priority, is likely to rely heavily on the EPA to carry out that agenda, at least initially, which is likely to thrust the agency into the political spotlight. McCarthy is going to have to answer for her agency, which isn’t the most popular among congressional Republicans, who have criticized the regulations it has rolled out in recent years as job-killers.The Washington Post reports that the coal industry could raise some opposition to her nomination, as may Senate Republicans, according to The Wall Street Journal

    On the other hand, McCarthy is popular with environmentalists, and even has support within the energy industry, including from groups that don’t tend to see eye-to-eye with EPA.

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