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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. SHAHEEN. I am here to join my colleague Senator Warren to also express my frustration about what is happening with the nominees to these critical agencies that are being held up by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. As Senator Warren said very eloquently, last week the Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chose not to appear for the important business of considering the nomination of Gina McCarthy. They made this decision with only a few minutes' notice. As a result, this action prevented an already overdue vote from taking place as scheduled.

The refusal to allow a vote on such fundamental business is unacceptable. The EPA conducts vital work to safeguard public health and protect our environment. Yet the agency has been without permanent leadership for months. It is the Senate's duty to act in a timely manner on these kinds of vacancies, and it is clear from Ms. McCarthy's impressive and expansive record that this nominee has earned and deserves a vote.

I understand and I respect those Senators who feel they have to vote against a nominee for substantive reasons. However, this failure to even appear at last Thursday's meeting and take a vote shows an alarming level of disregard for the importance of permanent leadership at the EPA and for the Senate's confirmation process. As Senator Warren said, committee Republicans have already asked Ms. McCarthy to answer over 1,100 questions for the record, more than three times what any previous nominee for this position has faced. She has provided 234 pages of answers, and it is past time that the committee held a vote. We need to move forward on filling the position of EPA Administrator so the agency can resume addressing today's public health challenges in the most effective manner.

Simply put, the type of obstructionism we saw last week has no place in this Senate, no place in our government, particularly for a position as critical as this one. In addition to its work to reduce harmful pollution at the national level, the EPA plays a vital role in safeguarding public health in our local communities.

For example, in my State of New Hampshire, testing in 2009 revealed elevated levels of contaminants in the wells of homeowners living in the town of Raymond because of their proximity to a Superfund site. Following this discovery, we worked with the EPA, with the State Department of Environmental Services, and with the town of Raymond to find a solution that would address the health concerns because the families didn't have safe drinking water. With the EPA's support, the town has extended its water lines to ensure that these homeowners and their families can be provided access to safe clean drinking water.

I had the opportunity to view the progress of this construction project in person last year. I applaud the EPA for working with communities on vital local priorities such as this.

Communities across our country face public health challenges, and the EPA plays an important role in addressing these challenges. Even now we are working in New Hampshire in a similar situation where wells have been contaminated in the town of Atkinson.

We can't continue to delay the Senate's responsibilities to provide agencies such as the EPA with the leadership they need to operate. With 30 years of public service in a variety of roles, Ms. McCarthy has both the experience and the expertise to do the critical job of leading the EPA. Her expansive and lengthy career is rooted in working at the forefront of pressing environmental issues for leading New England Governors of both political parties.

Most recently, Gina McCarthy served in Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection under former Republican Gov. Jodi Rell. Before that, Ms. McCarthy served five different Massachusetts Governors, including Michael Dukakis and Mitt Romney--the Republican Party's own nominee for President in last year's election.

These diverse work experiences on a broad range of environmental issues have provided Ms. McCarthy with the first-hand knowledge of environmental and public health challenges we face. They are evidence of her ability to work with people on both sides of the aisle to address the problems faced as we look at agencies such as the EPA.

Ms. McCarthy was confirmed by the Senate to her current EPA post with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2009. That makes the boycott last week even more shocking. In her current role as the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, Ms. McCarthy has worked with environmental advocates and industry leaders to reduce harmful emissions that threaten clean air. These efforts are particularly significant for downwind regions such as in New England, where we serve as the tailpipe to the rest of the Nation and suffer the effects of pollution from coal-fired powerplants in the middle part of the country. I am sure the Chair understands this issue.

In recognition of her successful tenure, Ms. McCarthy has received widespread praise from a diverse group of industry leaders who recognize her ability to find common ground and compromise.

Coming from New Hampshire, which is the second most forested State in the Nation, I know New Hampshire's forest products industry will benefit from an EPA Administrator with a strong reputation for constructive dialog. Following Ms. McCarthy's nomination, Donna Harman of the American Forest and Paper Association described her by saying: ``She's very data- and fact-driven, and that's been helpful for us as well as the entire business community.''

Leaders in an array of other sectors have voiced similar appreciation for the way in which Ms. McCarthy values finding common ground. Heaven knows we can use some common ground here.

Robert Engel of the American Automotive Policy Council praised the care she takes in listening to stakeholders, saying:

We look forward to continuing to work with Gina McCarthy. She has demonstrated a willingness to consider the views of those affected by the agency she has been nominated to lead, and to find practical solutions to issues facing the automobile industry.

These words describe a public servant who understands the importance of listening, understanding, and bringing stakeholders together.

I am confident Gina McCarthy will be an excellent leader of the EPA. She deserves fair consideration. She deserves a timely vote.

I am pleased we received news that there will be a rescheduled vote later this week. I urge my colleagues across the aisle to move forward in good faith and give fair consideration to this nominee. The EPA must have a permanent Administrator who is an advocate for protecting public health and providing valuable support to our Nation's communities.

I yield the floor.


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