New Sheriff at EPA Vows to Focus on Addressing Climate Change

Contributed by Christopher D. Barraza.

President Obama’s nominee to head EPA, Gina McCarthy, has been confirmed by the Senate. By choosing McCarthy, the President has made clear that addressing climate change is a priority in his second term.

Before her nomination and confirmation, McCarthy was EPA’s head of air quality.  In that position, she was an outspoken advocate for air quality regulation and oversaw the promulgation of a number of significant regulations, including:  greenhouse gas standards for cars, a rule on power plant mercury emissions, and a regulation on inter-state smokestack pollution.  And in the short time since her confirmation, McCarthy has made clear that addressing climate change will be a priority for EPA during her tenure.

You may ask why we’re talking about the new EPA administrator, and that’s a fair question.  The reason is the potential impact on climate change litigation.  Thus far, cases seeking damages for climate change have not prospered, primarily because of lack of proof of causation.  Specifically, plaintiffs have not been able to show that any particular defendant caused the damages alleged.

The new EPA Administrator cannot change this fact; however, her focus on climate change suggests that EPA may intensify its efforts to better understand and pinpoint the causes of climate change.  Though perhaps not the most apt analogy, EPA’s studies of the impact of fracking have been closely watched, in part because of their potential importance to fracking-related suits.  It is conceivable that any studies EPA may undertake regarding the causes of climate change could be relevant to climate change litigation that has been, or may be, filed.

Time will tell, and we will continue to follow this issue here at the Monitor.