Reddit "Ask Me Anything" with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions about the EPA's proposed rules to cut carbon pollution in our power plants.

During the "Ask Me Anything," Administrator McCarthy answered questions on a range of topics -- including President Obama's plan to fight climate change, what people can do in their own communities, and her thoughts on Marvin Gaye.

You can see all of the responses on Reddit, or check out the questions and responses below.

Gina McCarthy here. EPA Administrator, mom, wife, Boston area native, Rex Sox fan.

Yesterday the EPA proposed a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. The science shows that climate change is already posing risks to our health and our economy. The Clean Power Plan will maintain an affordable reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and our environment, now and for future generations. Read more here: http://blog.epa.gov/epaconnect/2014/06/our-clean-power-plan-will-spur-innovation-and-strengthen-the-economy/

I'll be here to answer questions starting at 6:00 PM ET. Ask Me Anything. Proof it's me: https://twitter.com/GinaEPA/status/473899708721946625

Question: Why do you think climate change has become the partisan issue that is has recently? Do you think we have a chance of moving away from the politicization of science in the foreseeable future?

Reply:  We know what the science tells us – the time to act is now. There is nothing political about public health and clean air.

Question: Hi Secretary McCarthy! Thanks so much for taking our questions, and thank you for your efforts in rolling out this historic proposed rule. I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of complaints, but you have also made many people incredibly happy and relieved to finally see action in this area, including myself.

1. Can you discuss the legal authority for setting standards for each state as opposed to individual existing power plants? I think it’s great that the state-wide solution adds more flexibility, but I’m curious about how EPA Office of General Counsel justified authority for this.

2. Many coal towns are lamenting the inevitable loss of jobs. While jobs are likely to be created elsewhere if the proposed rule becomes final, how can the EPA and the Obama administration directly provide for these communities?

3. How was a 30% reduction decided upon, and how was it decided to use 2005 as the baseline?

4. How often do people tell you that your Boston accent is the greatest thing ever? I interned at EPA last summer when you first started as EPA Secretary and all that people on my floor were talking about for a week was the welcome video in which you called EPA employees “soopah smaaht.”

Reply: This is a Clean Air Act rule. State standards make the most sense. We’ll get substantial reductions in carbon emissions in practical, flexible, achievable ways. We expect states can take actions that will protect their communities, public health and local economy. Check out how we did the state standards, it wasn’t about getting 30%, that’s what the standards will achieve nationally. You are wicked cool!

Question: How did you like the Simpson's Movie?

Reply: I sure hope I’m a better EPA Administrator than Russ Cargill. But seriously, Marge is my favorite. Love the hair.

Question: Can you talk a little about how the EPA Clean Power Plan targets fit into President Obama's broader 2009 UN Copenhagen Accord targets or long-term plans after 2030? The EPA proposed rule hopes to get to a 30% reduction in electricity emissions by 2030, and the UN Copenhagen Accord targets are quite a bit more ambitious: 17% reduction in total emissions by 2020, 42% by 2030, and 83% by 2050 (1). Based on the EPA GHG inventory (2), this looks like the EPA rules would get us about 30% of the way to the Copenhagen Accord goals by 2030 - what do you see as making up the rest of this gap?

Reply: Our Clean Power Plan is only one action in the President’s Climate Action Plan. It’s a gigantic leap forward and shows significant US leadership, check out the full range of things the President is moving forward: http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change. And don’t forget the innovation and investment across the US that this rule will unleash will push our energy revolution forward. It turns out that carbon reductions actually do more than save the planet, they protect kids’ health today.

Question: What are the chances of a zombie apocalypse happening?

Reply: Probably a better question for the CDC!

Question: Hi Gina, Junior Environmental Engineer here. What advice do you have for someone like me who wants to make an effective change towards our environment ? What are effective ways of promoting and implementing the principles of sustainability?

Reply: See what’s going on your community. There’s lots happening across the US, and your skills and energy can really make a difference. When it comes to sustainability local engagement can make the most difference. Check out epa.gov. We’ve got a lot of resources there to get you started.

Question: Hi Gina, why do some many EPA employees go work for the industries they regulate? Do you approve of that ? It seems to be a conflict of interest. Wouldn't you agree?

Also, why are your fines so low? It appears any kind of EPA action is just a cost of doing business for polluters.

Reply: We have lots of people who come from industry to work at EPA, and they’re totally committed to public health and environmental protection. If people leave EPA and go to work in the private sector, I can’t imagine that they’re going to leave that commitment behind – people who work at the EPA are too passionate about the environment.

I don’t agree that our fines are low. We work very hard to make sure that it doesn’t pay to pollute in this country.

Question: Thanks for taking our questions! What is the number 1 thing individuals can do to support more progress in this direction? What 1 thing would you ask of the private sector?

Reply:  The number one thing you can do is to get in the game! Make your voice heard and take action. The same thing goes for the private sector.

Question: Good evening, Administrator McCarthy. West Virginia lawmakers and power industry leaders are worried about the effects of the Clean Power Plan on the state. 1. How many jobs do you predict will be lost in the coal mining industry? 2. How will it affect the price of electricity in the state? 3. How will it affect WV's economy? 4. Is the base line for the target reductions 2005 or 2012?

Reply: The proposed plan gives the state the flexibilty to design a plan that works for them. We’ll be working closely with folks in West Virigina to make sure they understand what their goal is and the full range of options available. EPA cares about the health and economy of every community in this country.

Question: Do programs like WaterSense and EnergyStar factor into the future climate change initiatives?

Reply: They sure do. Both WaterSense and EnergyStar drive efficiency that benefits every consumer and the planet. You’d be surprised how small reductions add up to big savings for the planet and your pocketbooks. The more people choose EnergyStar and WaterSense products, the more we all win.

Question: Any comments/background/behind the scenes on your marathon of a confirmation fight?

Reply: What confirmation fight? I’m here now and having the time of my life!

Question: Hi Gina! I'd love to hear what your opinions are in regards to nuclear power vs. fossil fuels, specifically as it relates to how best to deal with nuclear waste. Thanks!

Reply: When it comes to nuclear, we know there are some questions, but there’s no denying that it’s carbon free and will be part of the energy mix.

On the issue of waste, it’s been a long standing challenge and one that needs a long term solution. Folks across the Administration are working on it.

Question: Favorite rap/hip hop album?

Reply: I'm more of a Marvin Gaye fan.

Question: I live in Montana and we're getting bombarded with messages about how this is going to cost us jobs. I recall hearing that global warming wasn't an issue because technology, in future generations, would fix any problems we might encounter. Won't that same American ingenuity come up with "clean coal" solutions or other options? Isn't this more a job shift away from incumbents toward innovators?

You've got a tough job ahead. Stick to your guns. History will remember you as being on the right side, no matter what the coal and gas industries say.

Reply: We're bullish on American ingenuity, that’s what makes this country so great. Thanks for your faith and optimism!

Question: Do you think such an impactful rule should be voted on by Congress? If this rule were put to a Congressional vote, would it pass?

Reply: Congress gave EPA the authority and responsibility to implement the Clean Air Act. We regulate power plants for mercury, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants. Why wouldn’t we regulate power plants for harmful carbon pollution? It fuels climate change and threatens public health.

UPDATE: This has been great - so many great questions. Next time I'll have to type faster! Thanks everybody.

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