McCarthy tapped as EPA director

McCarthy tapped as EPA director

By Jake Thomas, Resource Recycling

President Barack Obama has nominated Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Although McCarthy is best known for her work on air quality, she has occupied state-level positions where she sought to increase recycling rates and showed a willingness to use new laws and regulations to achieve that end.

Currently an assistant administrator at the EPA overseeing air quality, McCarthy has held positions at nearly every layer government. She served as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection before coming to Washington in 2009. Before that, she served as deputy secretary of operations for the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development, a position that coordinates environmental policies and programs in the state.

McCarthy has served under both Democrats and Republicans, including failed presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis. She is known for her Boston accent, sense of humor and willingness to work with business.

Much of McCarthy's work at the Obama EPA has focused on reducing industrial pollution, drafting clean air rules and crafting climate change policy. In his second term, Obama is likely to use EPA regulations to combat climate change, and McCarthy is likely to have a grueling Senate confirmation hearing where she will face opponents of the president's environmental agenda, reports National Journal.

Although climate change is likely to consume much of McCarthy's work should she be confirmed, she has a record of supporting recycling initiatives and has been described as a friend of the industry. She helped found the Product Stewardship Institute, an organization that seeks to reduce the environmental impact of consumer products, and served on its board during its early years.

According to past media accounts in Connecticut and Massachusetts, McCarthy helped oversee recycling initiatives in roles she occupied in both states.

While working in Massachusetts, McCarthy backed legislation in 2002 aimed at regulating the disposal of products containing mercury.

"We feel we are chasing the end of the stream, enforcing against incinerators, when the problem is really yours and mine,'' McCarthy told a legislative panel, according to an account in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

In 2004, she became commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a position she would occupy until 2009, when she was nominated to serve in the Obama Administration EPA. While at the DEP, she called for a doubling of the state's recycling rate from 30 to 58 percent.

"Here's the bottom line,'' McCarthy said, according to a 2007 Hartford Courant article on the DEP's new recycling goals. "Simply recycling that stray soda bottle and newspaper is no longer enough. We must radically and quickly change the balance in favor of waste reduction, recycling and reuse over disposal.''

"We all need to be aware of the ramifications of our actions and decisions and take more responsibility for the waste we produce," McCarthy is quoted as saying in a column that appeared in a 2007 edition of the Norwich Bulletin. "We need to shift away from a 'throwaway society' toward a system that promotes a reduction in the generation and toxicity of the trash we produce and dispose of through increased source reduction, reuse and recycle."

In 2007, McCarthy backed an unsuccessful expansion of Connecticut's bottle bill to non-carbonated beverages.

"While such containers are recyclable, their use often occurs away from the home, where the tendency is to throw them away or worse, to toss them on the ground," McCarthy told a committee, according to an account in The Advocate. "Applying a deposit requirement to the purchase of these bottles is a relatively simple means of helping to deal with these problems."

Part of Connecticut's new recycling goals would require recovering material from new waste streams, particularly electronics, newspapers quote McCarthy as saying. Her comments from the time show that she was willing to hold electronics manufacturers responsible for their end-of-life products.

"Our challenge to manufacturers will be for them to support recycling and take responsibility for the materials they are placing in the waste chain," said McCarthy in a 2007 Hartford Courant article. "That way we're leading a world where we're all intelligently managing the problems our success creates."

In 2008 the (DEP), joined the Northeast States Electronics Challenge. The program is meant to reduce the environmental impact of electronics products purchased by participating organizations. Organizations participating in the program must dispose of their end-of-life electronics in an environmentally responsible way.

Under McCarthy, the DEP developed an e-scrap program that created a network of drop-off locations for unwanted computers, monitors and televisions.

Statements from trade groups representing the recycling industry welcomed McCarthy.

"The Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) congratulates Gina McCarthy on her nomination by President Obama as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)," reads a statement from ISRI. "ISRI looks forward to working with Ms. McCarthy on issues important to the recycling industry and the vital role they play in protecting the environment."

Another from the Environmental Industry Associations, the trade association representing waste collection, disposal and recycling firms, reads:

"America's solid waste and recycling industry looks forward to working with the new EPA administrator after she is confirmed. Our industry is a vital part of America's environmental infrastructure, collecting and managing wastes, recyclables and compostables and producing energy from wastes. The companies that we represent have been revolutionizing the way that wastes and recyclables are collected, processed and ultimately disposed. We look forward to partnering with government when appropriate to continue our efforts to increase recovery of recycled and compostable materials, increase the amount of sustainable energy that we produce and make our trucks more energy efficient."

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