EPA chief: Trump can’t halt U.S. shift to clean energy

By Brady Dennis, The Washington Post.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday gave an impassioned defense of the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policies and insisted the nation’s shift from fossil fuels will continue no matter who occupies the White House.

“The inevitability of our clean energy future is bigger than any one person or one nation,” Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a speech at the National Press Club that was twice interrupted by protesters. “It must be guided by a simple but profound truth: We don’t have to choose between economy or environment. We can and we must choose both.”

McCarthy mostly deflected specific questions about worries over President-elect Donald Trump, who has been a blistering critic of the EPA. Trump has vowed to scrap what he sees as onerous regulations the agency has put in place in recent years, from tighter methane controls on domestic drillers to the administration’s signature effort to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. He also has vowed to end the “war on coal,” expand oil and gas leasing across federal lands and waters, and “cancel” U.S. participation in an international climate agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

But McCarthy, a Boston native who became the EPA head in 2013 after a lengthy confirmation fight, repeatedly suggested that trying to slow the country’s move away from coal and other fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources ultimately would be foolish and futile.

“Science tells us that there is no bigger threat to American progress and prosperity than the threat of global climate change,” she said. “And if you take nothing else from my speech today, take this: The train to a global, clean-energy future has already left the station. We have a choice. We can choose to get on board, to lead. Or we can choose to be left behind.”

McCarthy ticked off statistics detailing what she called the rapid progress of recent years: Vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient. Power plants have reduced mercury pollution. Many companies are on their way to meeting the requirements of the Clean Power Plan — even as its fate remains in federal court — and dozens of states are hitting lower emissions targets years ahead of schedule. U.S. leadership on climate action has compelled other nations around the world to follow suit.