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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Environment - "Hoosier to play key role in regulating climate change"

Maureen Groppe of the Gannett Washington Bureau has this lengthy story today on Janet McCabe, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation. Groppe writes that this is the national equivalent of McCabe's long-time job in Indiana, as Indiana's top air regulator until Gov. Daniels took office in 2005. A few quotes from the story:

And that puts her at the center of creating the first national limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants -- rules that will have more of an impact on Indiana than nearly any other state.

“It’s the best job she’ll ever have,” said Bill Wehrum, who had McCabe’s job at the Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration. “If you care about air issues and climate issues, there’s no better place to be.”

The pending power plant rules McCabe is crafting are historic and controversial.

They could be a major part of President Barack Obama’s legacy, making the U.S. an international leader in addressing climate change.

But Republicans hope that what they call Obama’s “war on coal” will help them win this year’s midterm elections. * * *

In Indiana, state officials and business groups have been sounding the alarm.
McCabe, 55, who declined an interview request, came to Indiana after earning her law degree from Harvard in 1983 and working on environmental issues for the state of Massachusetts. Raised in Washington, D.C., McCabe became a Hoosier because of her husband, Indianapolis attorney Jon Laramore.

After she joined the EPA in 2009, the couple kept their home in Indianapolis. McCabe travels back most weekends.

“I know it’s a significant burden to do that every weekend,” said Tom Neltner, who worked with McCabe at IDEM and founded the Indianapolis-based advocacy group Improving Kid’s Environment. “My guess is it keeps her grounded.”

“Her roots are here,” said Beverly Gard, a Republican and former state senator — she was the longtime chairwoman of the Senate’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee — who still keeps up with McCabe.
'Takes the time to understand'

McCabe worked at IDEM under Democratic governors, rising to head of the air quality office from 1998 to 2005.

Gard said McCabe knew that to get regulations through the legislature where the Republicans controlled the Senate and sometimes the House, she had to work with the GOP.

“We would sit down and figure out what we agreed on. And then the things that we didn’t agree on, we would work through those,” Gard said. “I found her very approachable. She’s very bright. Extremely bright. Extremely hardworking.”

Wehrum, who represented industry clients with IDEM during McCabe’s tenure, said McCabe is very pragmatic and knows the law well.

“She takes the time to understand the issues and makes informed decisions,” Wehrum said. “We don’t agree with everything she does, but it’s not because she doesn’t understand.” * * *

McCabe became the acting head of the office last year when her boss, Gina McCarthy, was tapped to lead the EPA. Obama has nominated McCabe to officially head the air office, and her confirmation is pending in the Senate.

The position is one of the most powerful at the EPA because of the office’s wide portfolio.

“The air administrator is almost the first among equals of the EPA’s assistant administrators,” said Scott Segal, a partner at the law firm Bracewell & Guiliani who works on clean air issues for power and refining companies. “People always talk about energy policy in the United States. I’ll let you in on a little secret. The United States has no energy policy. The United States has a Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act impacts almost every element of the manufacturing economy and of energy.”

That was the case when the EPA was just handling such major issues as smog, regional haze, cross-state pollution, toxic air pollutants, acid rain and pollution from mobile sources such as cars. Now greenhouse gas emissions have been added to the plate after efforts to pass new rules through legislation failed in Congress.

Obama announced last June that he was directing the EPA to impose emissions limits as the key part of a larger strategy to address climate change. Power plants are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about one-third of U.S. carbon pollution.

“There’s no more important work for us to be doing here at the EPA than addressing the threat of climate change to all the people in this country and indeed across the world,” McCabe told the EPA’s Science Advisory Board in December.

Obama gave the EPA a very ambitious timeline for getting the rules finished by the time he leaves office.

The proposed rules governing future power plants were reissued Sept. 20 which, McCabe told the Science Advisory Board, “I will never forget that date because it’s my son’s birthday.” * * *

In addition to revising those rules, McCabe also has to put out by June draft guidelines for emissions controls for existing power plants.

“So June is like tomorrow in my dreams. … I regularly have dreams about this,” McCabe told the Science Advisory Board.

A coalition of national and state business groups, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association, recently launched a campaign to fight the rules, including through Congress and, if necessary, in the courts. The coalition said the rules will affect every aspect of the economy and are some of the most complex and far-reaching regulations in history.

The ILB has a long list of entries referencing Janet McCabe, dated back to 2004. This post, from Oct. 29, 2009, read:
Janet McCabe, the highly-regarded, long-time head of IDEM's Air Office until the politics changed with Gov. Daniels' election, has accepted the position of chief deputy to the head of U.S. EPA's Air Office. McCabe, a Harvard Law graduate, will have the official title of Principal Deputy to the Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 16, 2014 03:15 PM
Posted to Environment