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As Assistant Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, UMass Boston graduate Gina McCarthy has been a leading advocate for comprehensive strategies to confront climate change and work toward a greener economy.  During her tenure, EPA has taken important steps to address greenhouse gas emissions and to protect public health by reducing air pollution.

Prior to her confirmation, McCarthy served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.  In her 25 year career, she has worked at both the state and local levels and helped coordinate policies on economic growth, energy, transportation and the environment.  She also has extensive experience with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first market-based greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system.

The Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward under the existing Clean Air Act and the landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA.  There the court ruled that greenhouse gases are indeed pollutants, and that EPA must determine if they pose a danger to human health and welfare and whether vehicle emissions contribute to the problem.  “In December 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson answered those questions—“yes and yes,” McCarthy said. 

Since then, Gina McCarthy has operated at the front line of environmental regulation, overseeing the development of the nation’s first efforts under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  The “Endangerment Finding” in 2009 was the foundation for EPA’s work to issue the first greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks, which in turn meant that greenhouse gases from factories and power plants would also have to be addressed in sensible, cost-effective ways. The gain, McCarthy points out, has been in applying standards that will have real impact and whose costs the nation cannot only afford to bear but that will actually save drivers money at the pump and pay industry back in the form of increased efficiency and lower energy expenditures. “The EPA and the states are now ready to apply the same time-tested process they have used for other pollutants.  This shows that the Clean Air Act can be used to reduce these (greenhouse) gases in a cost effective way,” says McCarthy.

When in May of 2010 Gina McCarthy delivered the keynote address at the Green Education for the Next Generation Gala, she revealed certain traits that allow her to operate in an often obstreperous environment.  OFD—Originally From Dorchester—she told her audience:  “I’m not going to debate climate science.  The time has come to act.”

Clues about her strong but pragmatic character emerge during one of her frequent talks to undergraduates on the UMass Boston campus.  “Every day in government,” she said, “you are faced with a constant push and pull of how far and how fast you can move vs. the decision to insist on getting it all and ultimately getting nothing.”  She told students that day, “Paste this on your wall and remember it:  Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

Gina McCarthy received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology from UMass Boston in 1976 and a joint Master of Science in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy from Tufts University. 

McCarthy met her husband Kenneth McCarey at UMass Boston and one of their daughters is currently studying in the College of Nursing and Health Science.  The UMass Boston experience is clearly one the family relishes as, on this particular spring day, she is telling a room full of undergraduate anthropology and environmental study students:  “Don’t just take courses in your major, take advantage of all the University has to offer, take a class in Greek literature.  In your career, you will use everything that you learn at UMass Boston.”

To learn more about Gina McCarthy click here.