|1st White House National Climate Advisor|
|Assumed office |
January 20, 2021
|Preceded by||Position established|
|13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency|
July 18, 2013 – January 20, 2017
|Deputy||Stan Meiburg (acting)|
|Preceded by||Lisa Jackson|
|Succeeded by||Scott Pruitt|
May 3, 1954 
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||University of Massachusetts Boston (BA)|
Tufts University (MS)
Regina McCarthy (born May 3, 1954) is an American air quality expert serving as the first White House National Climate Advisor under U.S. President Joe Biden. She served as the 13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2013 to 2017 under U.S. President Barack Obama.
Obama nominated McCarthy to replace Lisa P. Jackson as head of the EPA on March 4, 2013. Confirmation hearings started April 11, 2013. On July 18, 2013, she was confirmed after a record 136-day confirmation process, becoming the face of Obama's global warming and climate change initiative.
In early 2020, McCarthy became president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
On December 18, 2020, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he would appoint McCarthy as the first National Climate Advisor where she will advise Biden on domestic climate change policy and lead the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
Early life and education
Born in Brighton, Boston, on May 3, 1954, McCarthy was raised in Canton, and Dorchester, Massachusetts. She has Irish ancestry, and grew up in a working-class family. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Anthropology. She later attended Tufts University, where she received a Master of Science combining Environmental Health Engineering with Planning and Policy in 1981.
McCarthy started her health and environment career in 1980, serving as the city of Canton's health agent. In 1985, Governor Dukakis tapped her to serve on a state hazardous waste safety council. She held several top positions in the civil service of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including undersecretary for policy for Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs from 1999 to 2003 and Deputy Secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development from 2003 to 2004.
McCarthy has worked on environmental issues at the state and local levels and has developed policies on economic growth, energy, transportation and the environment. She has served as environmental adviser to five Massachusetts governors, including former Governor Mitt Romney.
From 2004 to 2009 she was commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. In that role she developed and implemented the first regional policy to trade carbon credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
She held the position of Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation from 2009 to 2013.
On March 4, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to replace Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA. According to some observers, Obama's selection of McCarthy confirmed his seriousness about battling climate change. Daniel Fiorino, director of the Center for Environmental Policy at American University, said: "Her nomination signals that the president really wants to deliver on his State of the Union objectives to take serious action on climate change."
Regarding speculation that her appointment would affect Obama's decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline, Fiorino stated that this wouldn't affect the dynamics of the Keystone decision significantly as other considerations are paramount, but added: "... she knows air and climate issues very well and she's a very strong environmentalist". The EPA is one of the federal agencies that advised the Obama administration on the proposed pipeline.
Confirmation hearings started April 11, 2013.
After the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved McCarthy's nomination in a vote along party lines on May 16, the nomination was stalled for a month on the Senate floor by John Barrasso of Wyoming.
In the interim, Bob Perciasepe served as the EPA's acting administrator. David Vitter, the ranking Republican on the committee, posed 600 of a total 1,100 questions, to McCarthy. The committee Republicans demanded responses from McCarthy on five "transparency requests".
The delayed nomination resulted in the longest period that the agency was without a leader. Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, stated: "It's not about [McCarthy], it's about the agency... Republicans lost the [presidential] election and they have to realize that this is the president's choice of nominee. They can go after the president, but Gina McCarthy should get an up-and-down vote." On July 18, 2013, the Senate confirmed McCarthy as the 13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency by a vote of 59–40, largely along party lines.
On May 27, 2015, McCarthy finalized a rule under the Clean Water Act which proposed a new detailed and inclusive definition of "waters of the United States". Thirteen states sued, and U.S. Chief District Judge Ralph R. Erickson issued an injunction blocking the regulation in those states.
In a separate lawsuit, on October 9, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Judge David McKeague, joined by Judge Richard Allen Griffin stayed the rule's application nationwide; judge Damon Keith dissented. Congress passed a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act overturning the "WOTUS" rule, but President Obama vetoed the measure.
On June 25, 2015, McCarthy finalized the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act, seeking to reduce coal use pursuant to the Paris Agreement. Challengers failed to get the regulation stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, but on February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5–4 to grant the stay, the first time the Supreme Court had ever stayed a regulation prior to lower court review.
On March 17, 2016, McCarthy and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder testified before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding the Flint water crisis. Snyder apologized for the state's mistakes. McCarthy, however, insisted the EPA had done nothing wrong and that "there is no way my agency created this problem"; she was at times shouted down by outraged members of Congress. In October 2016, the EPA's inspector general concluded that the EPA had wrongfully delayed issuing an emergency order regarding Flint.
Employment outside government
In 2017, McCarthy joined Pegasus Capital Advisors, a private equity firm, where she serves as an operating advisor focused on sustainability and wellness investments.
In late May 2018, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced the formation of a new climate and health science center - The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE) - with McCarthy as its director. In January 2020, she was named chair of its board of advisors.
McCarthy was also a Richard L. and Ronay A. Menschel Senior Leadership Fellow at the School of Public Health. She taught a course there in the Department of Environmental Health titled, "Environmental Leadership: Integrating Science, Public Policy, and Political Rhetoric". She was the School's 2017 Commencement speaker. On November 6, 2017, she was appointed Professor of Public Health Practice.
On December 18, 2020, President-elect Biden presented McCarthy as his choice to become the first National Climate Advisor, head of the White House Office of Climate Policy. McCarthy serves as Biden's chief advisor on domestic climate change policy. The position, which will have its own staff, will be a part of the White House Office. McCarthy said she was initially reluctant to join the administration until Biden adopted a broad view of climate change. She said that when Biden as a candidate for president "made the connection between climate and health and environmental and racial justice, and he framed it in terms of what needed to be done after the pandemic for job growth" she was persuaded and "energized".
McCarthy is married to Kenneth McCarey. During her stint at the EPA, her husband lived in Massachusetts, but would often join her for several weeks at a time in Washington. They have three adult children. She is a fan of the Barefoot Contessa cooking show.
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