Trump rollbacks won’t hold up in court — Gina McCarthy

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gina McCarthy, who served as U.S. EPA administrator under President Obama, said yesterday that the courts will likely overturn the Trump administration’s rollbacks of major environmental rules.

“I think the important thing is that none of [the rules] should be touched unless the administration has a real reason to touch it, other than it was done during the Obama administration, and that’s the problem that we see,” McCarthy told BuzzFeed’s morning livestream program, “AM to DM.”

The former EPA boss singled out the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS.

“That is being challenged just because the president told them to do that in an executive order,” McCarthy said. “That’s legally not going to hold up.”

She also pointed to the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature climate rule. Earlier this month, EPA renewed its request that federal judges keep the massive litigation regarding the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on hold (Greenwire, Feb. 9).

“I don’t understand the reason why they would want to delay decisions in the D.C. Circuit over that, that are challenging the legality of the rule,” McCarthy said.

“Let them play out. Let us see whether we did it right. I think we did, and I think they will hold up in court even if this administration wants them to go away.”

The interview also touched on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s first-class travel, which recently drew scrutiny from House Democrats (Greenwire, Feb. 20).

McCarthy pointedly said she was comfortable when she flew coach. “It was comfy for the people in my family. It’s comfy for me and the people that I serve,” she said.

“It’s perfectly appropriate, and that’s how we traveled because our job was to make sure that we were protecting public dollars as best we could and making sure that every public dollar we could would be spent on the real mission of the agency, not the luxury of the administrator who was leading it,” said McCarthy.

A former EPA official familiar with McCarthy’s travel as administrator said she typically flew economy class.

The ex-official did note that McCarthy took at least two business-class flights on international trips, including one where she led the U.S. delegation to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro that was paid for by the State Department. In addition, an EPA security agent was traditionally nearby on the plane when McCarthy flew (Greenwire, Feb. 16).

EPA has not yet released its fiscal 2017 report in response to an E&E News Freedom of Information Act request, which would cover the end of McCarthy’s time at the agency as well as Pruitt’s tenure up to last September.

That report would provide the fullest accounting yet of Pruitt’s business- and first-class travel, now under fire from lawmakers and environmental groups.

A General Services Administration spokeswoman confirmed that EPA has filed its fiscal 2017 premium travel report with the agency.

Reporter Kevin Bogardus contributed.