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National Climate Adviser – no confirmation needed

Gina McCarthy

by Deedra Abboud in Political
January 20, 2021 0 comments

President Joe Biden announced that he would be nominating Gina McCarthy as the first National Climate Advisor.

In the newly-created position, McCarthy will serve as Biden’s chief advisor on domestic climate change policy. The position, which will have its own staff, will be a part of the White House Office.

The position: Runs the new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. Assists the president in coordinating his climate agenda.

Born in Brighton, Boston, Gina McCarthy was raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1976, as a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology.

She later attended Tufts University, where she received a Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy in 1981.

Gina McCarthy began her early career in the public sector working as the health agent for the Canton Board of Health. 

McCarthy has worked on environmental issues at the state and local levels and has developed policies on economic growth, energy, transportation and the environment.

She held several top positions in the civil service of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including Deputy Secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development (2003–2004) and Undersecretary for policy for Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs from 1999 to 2003.

She has served as environmental adviser to five Massachusetts governors, including former Governor Mitt Romney.

From 2004 to 2009 she was commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. In this capacity she implemented a regional policy to trade carbon credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

McCarthy held the position of Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation from 2009-13.

On March 4, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to replace Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA.

The delayed nomination became the longest period on record that the agency was without a leader, with David Vitter, the ranking Republican on the Committee, posing 600 of a total 1,100 questions to McCarthy.

On July 18, 2013, she was confirmed after a record 136-day confirmation fight, becoming the face of Obama’s global warming and climate change initiative.

On May 27, 2015, McCarthy finalized a rule under the Clean Water Act which proposed a new detailed and inclusive definition of “waters of the United States“.

Thirteen states sued, and U.S. Chief District Judge Ralph R. Erickson issued an injunction blocking the regulation in those states.

On June 25, 2015, McCarthy finalized the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act, seeking to reduce coal use pursuant to the Paris Agreement.

Challengers failed to get the regulation stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but on February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 to grant the stay, the first time the Supreme Court had ever stayed a regulation prior to lower court review.

On March 17, 2016, McCarthy and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder testified before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reformregarding the Flint water crisis.

Snyder apologized for the state’s mistakes. [Snyder, and others, have now been charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter each, as well as official misconduct and neglect of duty for “grossly negligent performance.”]

In October 2016, the EPA’s inspector general concluded that the EPA had wrongfully delayed issuing an emergency order regarding Flint, Michigan.

In 2017, McCarthy joined Pegasus Capital Advisors, a private equity firm, where she serves as an operating advisor focused on sustainability and wellness investments.

In late May 2018, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced the formation of a new climate and health science center – The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) – with McCarthy as its director. In January 2020, she was tapped as the chair of their board of advisors.

McCarthy was also a Richard L. and Ronay A. Menschel Senior Leadership Fellow at the School of Public Health. She taught a course there in the Department of Environmental Health titled, “Environmental Leadership: Integrating Science, Public Policy, and Political Rhetoric”. She was the School’s 2017 Commencement speaker. On November 6, 2017, Dean Michelle Williams sent out a public notice appointing McCarthy as a Professor of Public Health Practice.

In November 2019 McCarthy was appointed president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, effective early 2020.

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