Outgoing EPA head: Clean energy train 'already left the station' - Smart Energy Decisions

GHG Emissions, Power Prices, Regulation, Regulation  -  November 23, 2016

Outgoing EPA head: Clean energy future is inevitable

Speaking at a National Press Club event Nov. 21, outgoing U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urged the U.S. to plow ahead with efforts to combat climate change, regardless of the direction the new presidential administration takes.

In what could have been McCarthy's last major speech as U.S. EPA administrator —as an appointee of President Barack Obama, McCarthy is set to vacate the role Jan. 20 — she reportedly recounted the Obama administration's environmental work and cautioned against actions to reverse course, multiple news outlets reported. She was also firm in the belief that the global transition to cleaner energy sources will continue with or without supportive U.S. policy. 

"Science tells us that there is no bigger threat to American progress and prosperity than the threat of global climate change," The Hill reported McCarthy as saying. "And if you take absolutely nothing else from my speech today, take this: The train to a global clean energy future has already left the station." 

McCarthy's comments arrived as the energy sector and government officials have been trying to gauge what energy policy might look like under President-elect Donald Trump, who previously called climate change a hoax and promised during his campaign to withdraw U.S. support of the Paris climate agreement. Since being elected, Trump has walked back his language on the Paris agreement, telling The New York Times on Nov. 22 that he has an "open mind" to it. Hundreds of U.S. businesses recently reaffirmed their support for U.S. participation in the climate agreement in a Nov. 16 letter addressed to president-elect Donald Trump. 

As for the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, McCarthy reportedly downplayed its impact to ensuring a clean energy transition. According to Morning Consult, McCarthy said the plan, considered to be the cornerstone of the Obama's administration's actions on climate change, was "designed to follow the clean-energy transition that was already underway, the one that the energy market depends on and the one that the energy market will continue to demand."

The Clean Power Plan, which seeks to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants, is currently tied up in the U.S. courts, though implementation of it is already underway or complete in many states. During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to dismantle the rule. 

The Hill reported that McCarthy said the president-elect's transition team had not yet been in touch with the EPA, but she appeared confident a smooth changeover was possible.

"I’m looking forward to a sound transition and getting folks in here so they can see the breadth of the work in the agency and how well we've done our job," the publication reported her as saying.

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