Monday, January 09, 2017

Outgoing EPA head says one of her biggest regrets was failing to connect to rural America

Gina McCarthy (Reuters photo by Gary Cameron)
Outgoing Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy says one of her biggest regrets was a failure to connect to rural America, Valerie Volcovici reports for Reuters. McCarthy told Reuters, "We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but . . . has it changed the rhetoric that people hear? It hasn't. We couldn't get it, but I wish we had." 

The EPA chief sometimes rubbed rural folks the wrong way and inadvertently offended people. That was evident during her failed attempts to explain EPA's expanded definition of "waters of the U.S." under the Clean Water Act to farmers, in which she called their concerns about the rules "silly" and "ludicrous," words she said were taken out of context.

"McCarthy said her struggle to convince rural Americans that a clean energy economy can also provide jobs was a major disappointment in a four-year tenure that she felt was mostly positive," Volcovici writes. "She said crafting the country's first carbon regulations for power plants and taking strong enforcement actions against companies like Volkswagen—accused of cheating on emissions tests—were high points that proved the agency's serious approach."

She said she "tried to build more visibility and stronger partnerships in rural communities to emphasize the value of the EPA's role, particularly in protecting local air and water," Volcovici writes. "But she said political baggage around the term 'climate change' had hampered those efforts. She told Reuters, "Just because climate continues to be bandied about as a partisan issue instead of just a science issue, it's made EPA's job more difficult." McCarthy also said coal-mining communities "unfairly blamed the EPA for a downturn in the industry that began decades before the regulatory shift against carbon, and which has accelerated because of competition from natural gas."

No comments: