Manchin’s thumbs down on EPA pick

WHEELING – Sen. Joe Manchin cast the lone Democrat vote against confirmation of Gina McCarthy as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday.

West Virginia’s Manchin spoke on the Senate floor prior to the vote, telling colleagues his vote wasn’t against McCarthy but rather against the Obama administration’s “lack of any serious attempt to develop an energy strategy for America’s future.”

McCarthy was confirmed by a Senate vote of 59-40. Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, voted in favor of confirmation, while Manchin and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, voted against.

Manchin said he had met McCarthy, and he praised what he termed her “bipartisan credentials.” He said she advised 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his climate change plan when he was governor of Massachusetts, and that it was likely Romney also would have nominated her to be EPA administrator as President Barack Obama did.

“The president often speaks about an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy, but his new global climate proposal amounts to a true declaration of war on one of the above – coal,” Manchin said. “In fact, the president plans to use the EPA to regulate the coal industry out of existence, so it really doesn’t matter that much who is sitting in the administrator’s chair at the EPA. It could be Ms. McCarthy or someone else because it is the president who will be calling all the shots. That’s my fight. And it’s a fight we cannot lose. There is too much at stake.”

Yianni Varonis, spokesman for Brown, said Brown “will continue to monitor the EPA to ensure that our environmental policy creates jobs while protecting Ohio’s children and families from mercury, arsenic and other pollutants.”

“He rejects the false choice between having clean air to breathe and a good-paying job to support a family – which is why he’s led the fight to ensure that efforts to reduce pollution create jobs in the U.S., rather than jeopardize them,” Varonis said of Brown.

Rockefeller said it was important to confirm a qualified candidate as EPA administrator.

“We need to fill the leadership positions in the administration – as too many of them still remain vacant – so the federal government can finally get work done,” he said. “This includes the EPA, which provides an important function: to protect our health and water quality. Gina McCarthy has a great deal of experience working with these issues, and as she starts her new job, I hope that she will also work to find real solutions to create and save jobs in West Virginia. We need to find a responsible balance.”

Portman’s office did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.