McCabe expected to be nominated as air chief

Source: Jason Plautz, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013

President Obama is expected to name Janet McCabe to head U.S. EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, the office tasked with the heavy lifting in enacting Obama’s plan to combat climate change, sources outside of the administration said.

McCabe is currently the acting head of the air office, having moved into the post after Gina McCarthy was confirmed as EPA administrator. Previously, McCabe had served as the deputy in that office since joining EPA in 2009.

The White House and EPA both declined to comment on the nomination, and no timeline for an announcement is apparent, although EPA has moved to fill several vacant positions since McCarthy was confirmed in July.

If appointed, McCabe would lead the office as it moves forward with a suite of controversial rules to combat climate change, headlined by limits on emissions from new and existing power plants. A proposal on new power plants has already been sent to the White House for review.

Industry groups and congressional Republicans have cautioned that the regulations could be a death knell for the coal industry, raise power prices and cause job losses. A lengthy legal battle is expected once the rules are issued, which would put McCabe in the spotlight to defend the plan.

Senate Republicans could use McCabe’s confirmation process as an opportunity to strike back against the climate change plan, much as they used McCarthy’s months-long nomination debate to send messages on EPA regulations and transparency. But as McCabe is already in the acting position, observers said that she still is likely to get Senate approval.

“She’s a superb pick,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign. “She’s very experienced and very knowledgeable. I can’t imagine she would generate opposition from the political types, because she’s really an expert in this and not in any way out of the mainstream.”

The air office will have a busy agenda, including work on several air quality standards and revisions to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which regulates harmful emissions that cross state lines. McCabe has already been in conversations with industry groups on the latter effort (Greenwire, Aug. 7).

In her tenure at EPA, McCabe worked closely with McCarthy in the air office, a relationship that sources said would serve both well in the second term. McCabe, like McCarthy, has experience on the state level and a reputation for working with industry groups on the regulations that affect them.

Before joining the agency, McCabe served as executive director of Improving Kids’ Environment Inc., an Indiana-based environmental health advocacy organization. She also worked as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Public Health at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Prior to that, McCabe served in several positions in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Air Quality, including seven years as the office’s assistant commissioner. She also worked as an assistant attorney general for environmental protection in Massachusetts.