The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the nation’s largest scientific association, and publisher of the journal Science. Its president is always a distinguished scientist, elected each year by its nearly 120,000 members. On Monday, 6 of AAAS’s 7 most recent past presidents sent a letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer and Ranking Member David Vitter, supporting President’s Obama’s nomination of Gina McCarthy as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The missing past president — for obvious reasons — was John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. (Full disclosure: the letter’s organizer, Dr. James McCarthy, is not only Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University, but chairman of the UCS board of directors.)
The letter praises Gina’s “candor, pragmatism, and fidelity to science as the foundation for public policy decisions, as well as her openness to diverse stakeholders,” and notes her leadership in developing the first-ever air emission standards for mercury and air toxics and the standards nearly doubling fuel economy for new cars by 2025. The letter will complicate any efforts at tomorrow’s Environment Committee confirmation hearing by opponents of McCarthy’s nomination to portray her record and approach to environmental regulation as somehow disconnected from the best available science.
Opposition to Gina’s confirmation as EPA administrator is also made more difficult by the fact that she served as a state regulator under six governors — all but one of them Republicans — and that she is widely acknowledged to be fair, a good listener, and well, just hard not to like — even by those in industry who may often disagree with her stance on particular issues.
As Gloria Berquist, vice president of the Alliance of American Automakers, told the National Journal, Gina is “a pragmatic policymaker. She has aspirational environmental goals, but she accepts real-world economics.” John McManus, American Electric Power’s vice president of environmental services, reinforced this point in the same article, saying “My sense is that Gina is listening, has an open mind, she wants to hear the concerns of the regulated sector.” And Donna Harman, president and chief executive of the American Forest and Paper Association, told the Washington Post that Gina is “very data- and fact-driven, and that’s been helpful for us as well as the entire business community.
As UCS President Kevin Knobloch put it in his letter to Senators supporting Gina’s nomination, Gina McCarthy “is uniquely qualified to be the next Administrator of EPA. In her 30 year career she has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to use sound science and thoughtful stakeholder collaboration to craft effective, yet flexible, public policy responses to pressing public health and environmental problems.”
In 2009, the Senate, on a bipartisan basis, confirmed Gina McCarthy to serve as Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Given the plaudits for Gina’s record and character from leaders in both the business and scientific communities, one can only hope the outcome will be the same this time around.
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