While Republicans continued a steady barrage of attacks, none threatened to block her confirmation. Even Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who describes global warming as a “hoax,” told McCarthy, “If you are confirmed I want to develop same relationship with you I had with (previous administrator) Lisa Jackson. While I didn’t agree with her on policy, we got along well.”
The top Republican on the Environment Committee, David Vitter of Lousiana, also launched a barrage of criticism at the EPA – but he barely mentioned the issue of climate change.
Vitter’s home state is one of the biggest oil producers in the U.S. – although it’s also one of the states most vulnerable to economic destruction from rising sea levels and extreme hurricanes, which climate scientists link to global warming.
Vitter focused his questioning on the issue of transparency, accusing the EPA of concealing information as it prepares controversial regulations that could have profound impacts on the economy.
“I am concerned that the central functions of the Agency have been obfuscated by ideology, frustrated by a severe lack of transparency, undermined by science the Agency keeps hidden, and implemented without regard for economic consequences,” Vitter said. “The EPA eschews at all costs economic modeling that would verify the true impacts of the regulatory agenda that now provides this country with the lowest workforce participation rate since the Carter Administration. Cost/benefit analyses as required under various executive orders and as required by the Clean Air Act…yet EPA remains intransigent in its opposition to having a transparent economic analysis process.”
Vitter has sent letters to the EPA asking for details about emails sent by the EPA’s previous administrator, Lisa Jackson, from a private account with the name “Richard Windsor.”
“There’s been a pattern of abuse of using personal emails at EPA,” he said. “it’s clear that this practice was used to hide information from the public,”
Senate Environment Chairwoman Barbara Boxer told Vitter that due to the high volume of emails received by the EPA administrator, it has become common practice for the agency head to create private email accounts – the practice was also followed by George W. Bush EPA chiefs Christine Todd Whitman and her deputies. Previous EPA chief email usernames have included “Tofu” and “ToWhit,” she said.
Of usernames most appropriate for an EPA chief, Vitter said, “Richard Windsor sounds pretty monarchist. I thinks that’s appropriate. But my vote is for Tofu.”
McCarthy told Vitter, “I share your concern for transparency and accountability – I do not conduct business with personal email. There are times when I’ve gone home to Boston and I’ve used my personal email to send documents from EPA home for printing – but those have never left the government email systems. Those would comply with [Freedom of Information Act] requests.”
Vitter also pressed McCarthy on the use of instant messaging, as another way agency officials could communicate without leaving a traceable record.
McCarthy responded, “One good thing about being 58 is that I don’t know how to use that. I’ve never used that and I don’t know how.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.