May 16, 2013

Jeremy Brecher: Why Labor Should Back Gina McCarthy for EPA Administrator

American workers need jobs. They also need protection from chemicals and pollutants that threaten their lives, health, environment, climate, and future. Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has a unique track record in protecting the environment in ways that also protect and expand jobs.

For the past four years as head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Gina McCarthy has exemplified protection of the environment based on US laws and scientific facts combined with common sense strategies to ensure that such regulation promotes rather than hurts jobs. In testimony at a recent Senate confirmation hearing, for example, she called fighting climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our generation and our great obligation to future generations.” But she pointed out that, along with public health benefits, those efforts can “create markets for emerging and new technologies and new jobs.”

In an interview with the Labor Network for Sustainability Gina McCarthy elaborated:
We learned a long time ago that you don’t need to pit the economy against public health. Why would we want to? How is that to anybody’s advantage? I think labor can speak to that better than anybody can. And we look forward to them doing that, and continuing to work with us, so we get the protections we need and the American people want — but we do it in a way that is as sensitive as possible, as flexible as possible, in a way that doesn’t just protect jobs but that grows them today and tomorrow.
Speaking of EPA regulations of toxic pollutants from utilities under the Clean Air Act, McCarthy said:
Our rules will generate jobs tomorrow, not a decade from now, but will put steelworkers back to work, will put electrical workers back to work, because they will require control technologies while we look at how to reduce carbon emissions through greater efficiencies. We’re not about jobs, we’re about public health, but we sure like it when it creates jobs and it creates them today when we actually need them.
Gina McCarthy’s track record reveals her commitment in deeds as well as words. For example, as EPA’s official in charge of implementing the Clean Air Act, Gina McCarthy helped lead the process to establish mileage and tailpipe emissions standards for cars and trucks. For years, such regulations were stymied by lawsuits, political warfare, and public campaigns claiming they would hurt the automobile industry and destroy jobs. But Gina McCarthy helped bring together the auto industry, the United Auto Workers, and other stakeholders to work out a common approach.

Was the result good for workers? Here’s what the UAW’s legislative director testified to Congress: “Based on our experience, the regulation of mobile sources has been a “win-win” that results in greater oil independence for our nation; a cleaner, healthier environment for ourselves and our children; and an increased number of jobs in the auto sector.”

This job creation resulted from “the new technology required to meet tailpipe emissions standards” which “represents additional content on each vehicle.” That requires “more engineers, more managers, and more construction and production workers.”

Indeed, “The continuing recovery of the automobile industry in the United States has as its foundation the regulatory certainty of these tailpipe emission standards, which is driving innovation in every company and in every vehicle segment.”

Read more here.

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