Most of the news coverage this week, understandably, has focused on the Markey climate hearings. And now attention is being focused on the efforts by "moderate" House Democrats to gut the Waxman-Markey bill on behalf of Duke Energy, the Edison Electric Institute and other forces of darkness who assert with a straight face that "the consumer" is their only concern.
Across the Capitol, however, another important mini-drama is playing out. There, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has recommended approval of the very qualified Gina McCarthy, the environmental commissioner from Connecticut, to become head of the U.S. EPA air pollution control division.
McCarthy was approved yesterday by the committee. But two Republican senators, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, have said they will put a "hold" on McCarthy's nomination -- delaying a vote by the entire Senate.
Their complaint: they don't like EPA's proposed "endangerment" finding that global warming poses a threat to health and the environment. So they want to hold McCarthy hostage out of spite. (They're also ignoring the fact that a far-from-liberal Supreme Court prompted the EPA finding. So, in order to score political points, they are blaming EPA, and McCarthy by association, for doing what the agency is required to do.)
The Senate leadership, apparently content to sit back and see how the special interests and their House colleagues undermine the best intentions of Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, need to put a stop to this nonsense pronto. They need to let McCarthy get to work.
The EPA needs someone in charge of its air division. We need the EPA to get on the job of dealing with the so-called "conventional" pollutants like mercury, smog and soot. And, given the likely erosion of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, we may really need an effective EPA to make progress on climate as well.
A note to Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer: don't let the Senate spoil sports run the show here. Bring McCarthy's nomination up for a vote, and let her do the job she was nominated to do.