Person

Janet McCabe

Occupation:

Lawyer and EPA leader

Janet McCabe is a lawyer and environmental activist who in 2021 was appointed the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Biden administration. [1] She previously served as an assistant administrator at the EPA in the administration of President Barack Obama (D). [2]

McCabe has faced criticism from Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties[3] and the Wall Street Journal. [4] McCabe was disparaged for the policies she had a hand in enforcing or creating, including the Clean Power Plan,[5] Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS),[6] and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). [7] The 3,900 EPA regulations created during her service were denounced for costing the economy billions. [8] Both West Virginia senators described McCabe’s impact on their state using terms like “destroy”[9] and “devastating.” [10]

McCabe criticized the Trump administration for damaging the health of Americans and the environment. [11] She has linked so-called “environmental racism” to America’s “centuries-old racism” and “the knee that has been on the neck of black Americans since the first enslaved black Africans were forcibly brought to the colonies in 1619,” and states that ethnic minority communities are at greater risk for climate change. [12] McCabe predicted that Indiana will one day welcome up to 10 million climate refugees fleeing from flooded coastal communities and Western fires. [13]

Background

Janet McCabe is the deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency serving under President Joe Biden. She worked in the Obama Administration as the acting assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR). [14] McCabe, called an “environmental pioneer,” was the director of the Indiana Environmental Resilience Institute where she helped create greenhouse gas inventories. [15]

Criticism

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

Under McCabe, the EPA’s biofuel standards were far more stringent than previous standards, permitting far less biofuel to be used in automotive gasoline than in previous years. [16] EPA’s management of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) drew criticism from Democrats, Republicans, and environmentalist groups. Her 2016 proposal that raised renewable fuel volume production targets was attacked for not achieving the Congressional thresholds and for exceeding market demand. [17] Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) asked McCabe, “Can you explain why the EPA is blatantly overlooking the law?”[18]

Then-Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) accused the EPA of “costing us investments, costing us environmentally, and costing us jobs.” Heitkamp accused McCabe and the EPA—which released the standards a year late—of costing the biofuel industry “$13.7 billion due in investment to EPA’s delay. For biofuels, 54 plants in 20 states have closed or idled due to lack of certainty from EPA.” Her comments were seconded by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). [19]

Carbon Capture and Storage

At a congressional hearing, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) grilled McCabe on the “adequate demonstration” for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. McCabe claimed the EPA performed successful CCS tests on four coal-powered plants, but Republican leaders later alleged that the tests had never taken place and the four coal projects were still in planning stages. Scalise and other congressional Republican leaders demanded that EPA withdraw the standards. [20]

Senate Opposition

In 2021, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) issued a statement explaining her “no” vote against Janet McCabe’s appointment to be deputy administrator of the EPA. She claimed that McCabe’s previous service in the EPA contributed to regulations that crushed West Virginia’s economy and that if confirmed she “would work to destroy West Virginia’s economy, community, and livelihood.” [21]

During a speech on the Senate floor, Capito alleged that McCabe was the “the architect of the Clean Power Plan, that basically wracked my economy in West Virginia.” She said McCabe acted with “little interest” in the welfare of West Virginians. [22]

Capito questioned the accuracy of McCabe’s statement that an EPA plan to clean the atmosphere would reduce costs for average Americans. Capito alleged that the EPA’s actions would increase energy costs from 17% to 37% of take-home pay for 430,000 low-income West Virginians. [23]

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted against McCabe’s appointment because she “was one of the chief architects of the Clean Power Plan that would have required coal plants to use unproven technology.” Manchin claimed that McCabe’s plan “would have been devastating for places like West Virginia, and I am concerned by her continued defense of this harmful rule.” [24]

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) questioned the veracity of McCabe’s vow to collaborate with states on environmental regulations. Cramer argued that “the Clean Power Plan proved to be one of the most overbearing big government impositions on states ever.” [25] Cramer explained to McCabe, “You have a steeper hill to climb, frankly, than most.” [26]

Carbon Footprint

In 2016, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to the head of the EPA asking if Janet McCabe’s frequent airline travel was within the spirit of a “sustainable commuting” executive order issued by then-President Obama. Smith pointed out that McCabe’s weekly commutes from Washington to Indiana raised doubts about her commitment to reducing carbon emissions, stating that this travel “raise[d] significant questions about the example EPA is setting.” [27]

Inspector General

The Inspector General of the EPA, Arthur A. Elkins Jr. investigated claims of overtime violations within McCabe’s department. He concluded the reason for the $12,948 in overtime “resulted primarily from staff resource shortfalls and the chronic unpredictable schedule of” McCabe. [28]

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)

In 2011, Janet McCabe was one of the authors of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS)[29] that the Supreme Court struck down in 2015. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal compared the effects of MATS on the U.S. power grid to the firebombing of Dresden, Germany in World War II. It alleged that the effect of MATS would be the closure of more than 1,000 fossil-fuel-fired electric power plants “at a cost of billions of dollars.” [30] McCabe replied with an editorial defending the policy, claiming that “power plants are the largest single source of both mercury and carbon pollution in the U.S.” [31]

Policies

Clean Power Plan

McCabe is one of the architects of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. [32] Over half of the states sued to prevent its implementation. [33] Politico described the plan as “aggressive.” It was blocked by the Supreme Court before it was enacted. [34] The policy was the first federal limit imposed on power plant carbon emissions and sought to reduce them 32% below the 2005 levels by 2030. This rule was a key element in President Obama’s strategy to drive global adoption of a climate agreement at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris. Opponents of the Clean Power Plan described it as “an unlawful expansion of federal power over electricity production,” “a blueprint for economic disaster,” and asserted that “it will cause more than 200 coal-fired power plants to close before courts have time to decide the legality of the rule.” [35] 

Regulations

In 2016, McCabe was the only representative from the EPA to attend a Congressional review of the impact of thousands of EPA regulations. During McCabe’s tenure, the EPA produced 3,900 regulations and rules totaling approximately 76,000 pages. The Republican-led effort aimed to understand these regulations’ impacts on the economy and the electricity sector, estimated to be in the billions. [36]

According to Politico, McCabe had, “a deep record of crafting aggressive environmental regulations.” [37] McCabe’s reputation was as an “experienced legal and regulatory hand” to aid President Biden achieve his goal of net zero carbon emissions in the United States by 2050. [38]

Viewpoints

Trump Administration

In 2018, McCabe wrote an opinion article in the New York Times, in which she accused the Trump administration of prioritizing industry’s profits over American’s health and for having a climate policy with, “no studies, no data, no rules.” She charged then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt with crippling the agency through his scrutiny of its climate studies and labeling them “secret science.” McCabe alleged Pruitt’s “new policy could be a catalyst for the unraveling of existing public health protections,” and “under Mr. Pruitt’s approach to science, the E.P.A. would be turning its back on its mandate to ‘protect human health and the environment.’”[39] McCabe claimed that Pruitt’s goal was to help the coal industry at the expense of public health and the environment. [40]

Systemic Racism

In 2020, while leading the Environmental Resilience Institute, McCabe wrote an article explaining how the phrase “I can’t breathe” symbolizes police brutality and America’s systemic racism that started in 1619. McCabe claimed that communities of color are systematically oppressed because of exposure to higher levels of air pollution that impacts their health and that they would be exposed to disproportionate impacts from climate change, substandard water quality, and proximity to harmful waste and emission sites. McCabe called for a commitment to “pursuing equity and environmental justice in all our work,” and to conduct self-examination to identify personal actions that contribute to systemic racism. [41]

Climate Change

In 2012, Janet McCabe told then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that global warming was responsible for more hurricanes and tornadoes. Sessions produced a United Nations report that contradicted her claim. [42]

McCabe told a House Science Committee that “costs to our economy and to society from the impacts of climate change that is already happening. In 2013, there were seven extreme weather events.… The scientific community has identified a number of impacts of climate change. Among those are increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.” [43]

McCabe wrote an op-ed describing how Indiana would one day greet its portion of the potential ten million climate refugees that will flee drowning coastal communities and blazing western states. She called the Indianapolis based migrants that left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina “its first of climate refugees.” [44]

In August 2016, the EPA produced its annual report, “Climate Change Indicators in the United States.” McCabe said the report “reiterates that climate change is a present threat and underscores the need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and prepare for the changes underway, to protect Americans’ health and safeguard our children’s future.” [45]

References

  1. Bastasch, Michael. “EPA Increases The Federal Ethanol Mandate.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, November 23, 2016. https://dailycaller.com/2016/11/23/epa-increases-the-federal-ethanol-mandate ^
  2. Budryk, Zack. “Senate Confirms Janet McCabe as Deputy EPA Chief.” TheHill. The Hill, April 27, 2021. https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/550527-senate-confirms-deputy-janet-mccabe-as-deputy-epa-chief ^
  3. Bastasch, Michael. “EPA Increases The Federal Ethanol Mandate.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, November 23, 2016. https://dailycaller.com/2016/11/23/epa-increases-the-federal-ethanol-mandate ^
  4. “Stopping EPA Uber Alles.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, July 6, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/stopping-epa-uber-alles-1436124275#comments_sector ^
  5. Felker, Ed. “Opponents Lock Arms to Stop Obama’s Carbon Rule.” Roll Call. Roll Call, October 26, 2015. https://www.rollcall.com/2015/10/26/opponents-lock-arms-to-stop-obamas-carbon-rule ^
  6. “Stopping EPA Uber Alles.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, July 6, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/stopping-epa-uber-alles-1436124275#comments_sector ^
  7. Bastasch, Michael. “EPA Increases The Federal Ethanol Mandate.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, November 23, 2016. https://dailycaller.com/2016/11/23/epa-increases-the-federal-ethanol-mandate ^
  8. Feldscher, Kyle. “House Committee to Highlight EPA’s 76,000 Pages of Regs under Obama.” Washington Examiner, July 4, 2016. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/tag/barack-obama?source=%2Fhouse-committee-to-highlight-epas-76-000-pages-of-regs-under-obama ^
  9. “Capito Statement on Vote Against Janet McCabe to Serve as EPA Deputy Administrator.” U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, April 27, 2021. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2021/4/capito-statement-on-vote-against-janet-mccabe-to-serve-as-epa-deputy-administrator ^
  10. Rhee, Katie. “WV Senators Disapprove of New Deputy Chief of EPA.” WDVM25 & DCW50 | Washington, DC. WDVM25 & DCW50 | Washington, DC, April 29, 2021. https://www.localdvm.com/news/west-virginia/wv-senators-disapprove-of-new-deputy-chief-of-epa ^
  11. McCabe, Janet. “Former EPA Official: Scott Pruitt Is Picking Energy Winners and Losers | Op-Ed | US News.” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, October 16, 2017. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/op-ed/articles/2017-10-16/former-epa-official-scott-pruitt-is-picking-energy-winners-and-losers ^
  12. McCabe, Janet. “Directors-Letter-Eri-Commitment-to-Social-and-Environmental-Justice.” ERI, June 11, 2020. https://eri.iu.edu/news-and-events/_news/archive/2020/20200611-directors-letter-eri-commitment-to-social-and-environmental-justice.html ^
  13. [1] McCabe, Eric Sandweiss and Janet. “Op-Ed: Why American Climate Refugees Could Bring Hope, Prosperity to Indiana.” The Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis Star, October 2, 2020. https://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/2020/10/02/op-ed-why-american-climate-refugees-could-bring-hope-prosperity-indiana/3587238001 ^
  14. Budryk, Zack. “Senate Confirms Janet McCabe as Deputy EPA Chief.” TheHill. The Hill, April 27, 2021. https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/550527-senate-confirms-deputy-janet-mccabe-as-deputy-epa-chief ^
  15. Thiele, Rebecca. “Indiana Environmental Pioneers Reflect On the 50th Earth Day.” WFYI Public Media. WFYI, April 22, 2020. https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/indiana-environmental-pioneers-reflect-on-the-50th-earth-day ^
  16. Neuhauser, Alan. “EPA Raises Biofuel Requirements, Finalizes Renewable Fuel Standard | US News.” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, November 30, 2015. https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/11/30/epa-raises-biofuel-requirements-finalizes-renewable-fuel-standard ^
  17. Noon, Marita. “Wasting Away Again in Ethanolville: The American Spectator: USA News and PoliticsThe American Spectator: USA News and Politics.” The American Spectator | USA News and Politics. Spectator, February 10, 2019. https://spectator.org/wasting-away-again-in-ethanolville/ ^
  18. Bastasch, Michael. “EPA Increases The Federal Ethanol Mandate.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, November 23, 2016. https://dailycaller.com/2016/11/23/epa-increases-the-federal-ethanol-mandate/ ^
  19. Simet, Anna. “EPA Management of RFS Program Scrutinized at US Senate Hearing @BiodieselMag.” Biodiesel Magazine – The Latest News and Data About Biodiesel Production, June 19, 2015. http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/articles/425254/epa-management-of-rfs-program-scrutinized-at-us-senate-hearing ^
  20. Arnold, Ron. “Behind the War on Coal’s Big-Money Networks.” Washington Examiner, November 27, 2013. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/behind-the-war-on-coals-big-money-networks ^
  21. “Capito Statement on Vote Against Janet McCabe to Serve as EPA Deputy Administrator.” U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, April 27, 2021. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2021/4/capito-statement-on-vote-against-janet-mccabe-to-serve-as-epa-deputy-administrator ^
  22. “Capito Statement on Vote Against Janet McCabe to Serve as EPA Deputy Administrator.” U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, April 27, 2021. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2021/4/capito-statement-on-vote-against-janet-mccabe-to-serve-as-epa-deputy-administrator ^
  23. Vespa, Matt. “The EPA, West Virginia, and The Looming 20 Percent Hike In Energy Costs.” Townhall. Townhall.com, September 30, 2015. https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2015/09/30/the-epa-west-virginia-and-the-looming-20-percent-hike-in-energy-costs-n2059319 ^
  24. Rhee, Katie. “WV Senators Disapprove of New Deputy Chief of EPA.” WDVM25 & DCW50 | Washington, DC. WDVM25 & DCW50 | Washington, DC, April 29, 2021. https://www.localdvm.com/news/west-virginia/wv-senators-disapprove-of-new-deputy-chief-of-epa/ ^
  25. Smith, Abby. “Biden EPA Nominee Takes Heat for Role in Obama Clean Power Plan.” Washington Examiner, March 3, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/biden-epa-nominee-gop-clean-power-plan ^
  26. Siegel, Josh. “Daily on Energy: Murkowski Demonstrates Influence in Advancing Haaland Nomination.” Washington Examiner, March 4, 2021. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/energy/daily-on-energy-murkowski-demonstrates-influence-in-advancing-haaland-nomination ^
  27. Bastasch, Michael. “Congress: Top EPA Official Racked Up Huge CO2 Footprint Pushing Global Warming Rules.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, February 23, 2016. https://dailycaller.com/2016/02/23/congress-top-epa-official-racked-up-huge-co2-footrpint-pushing-global-warming-rules/ ^
  28. OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL. Management of Overtime Improved at EPA’s Immediate Office of Air and Radiation. Washington, DC: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, 2016. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-03/documents/20160324-16-p-0111.pdf ^
  29. Patel, Sonal. “EPA: Mercury Rules for Coal, Oil Power Units Not ‘Appropriate and Necessary’.” POWER Magazine, December 29, 2018. https://www.powermag.com/epa-mercury-rules-for-coal-oil-power-units-not-appropriate-and-necessary/ ^
  30. “Stopping EPA Uber Alles.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, July 6, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/stopping-epa-uber-alles-1436124275#comments_sector ^
  31. McCabe, Janet. “EPA Is Fulfilling the Clean Air Act.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, July 14, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/epa-is-fulfilling-the-clean-air-act-1436908080 ^
  32. TYLER PAGER, ALEX THOMPSON and THEODORIC MEYER. “Biden’s Agenda Will Be behind from the Start.” POLITICO, January 15, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/15/bidens-agenda-will-be-behind-from-the-start-491436 ^
  33. Feldscher, Kyle. “House Committee to Highlight EPA’s 76,000 Pages of Regs under Obama.” Washington Examiner, July 4, 2016. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/tag/barack-obama?source=%2Fhouse-committee-to-highlight-epas-76-000-pages-of-regs-under-obama ^
  34. Guillén, Alex. “Senate Confirms Michael Regan to Lead EPA.” POLITICO. POLITICO, March 11, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/10/michael-regan-epa-confirmed-475202 ^
  35. Felker, Ed. “Opponents Lock Arms to Stop Obama’s Carbon Rule.” Roll Call. Roll Call, October 26, 2015. https://www.rollcall.com/2015/10/26/opponents-lock-arms-to-stop-obamas-carbon-rule ^
  36. Feldscher, Kyle. “House Committee to Highlight EPA’s 76,000 Pages of Regs under Obama.” Washington Examiner, July 4, 2016. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/tag/barack-obama?source=%2Fhouse-committee-to-highlight-epas-76-000-pages-of-regs-under-obama ^
  37. Guillén, Alex. “Senate Confirms Michael Regan to Lead EPA.” POLITICO. POLITICO, March 11, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/10/michael-regan-epa-confirmed-475202 ^
  38. TYLER PAGER, ALEX THOMPSON and THEODORIC MEYER. “Biden’s Agenda Will Be behind from the Start.” POLITICO, January 15, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/15/bidens-agenda-will-be-behind-from-the-start-491436 ^
  39. Mccarthy, Gina, and Janet G. Mccabe. “Scott Pruitt’s Attack on Science Would Paralyze the E.P.A.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 26, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/opinion/pruitt-attack-science-epa.html ^
  40. McCabe, Janet. “Former EPA Official: Scott Pruitt Is Picking Energy Winners and Losers | Op-Ed | US News.” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, October 16, 2017. https://www.usnews.com/opinion/op-ed/articles/2017-10-16/former-epa-official-scott-pruitt-is-picking-energy-winners-and-losers ^
  41. McCabe, Janet. “Directors-Letter-Eri-Commitment-to-Social-and-Environmental-Justice.” ERI, June 11, 2020. https://eri.iu.edu/news-and-events/_news/archive/2020/20200611-directors-letter-eri-commitment-to-social-and-environmental-justice.html ^
  42. Bastasch, Michael. “Sessions Slams EPA Air Chief for Trying to Hide Global Warming Claims.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, April 8, 2014. https://dailycaller.com/2014/04/08/sessions-slams-epa-air-chief-for-trying-to-hide-global-warming-claims ^
  43. Bastasch, Michael. “Sessions Slams EPA Air Chief for Trying to Hide Global Warming Claims.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, April 8, 2014. https://dailycaller.com/2014/04/08/sessions-slams-epa-air-chief-for-trying-to-hide-global-warming-claims ^
  44. McCabe, Eric Sandweiss and Janet. “Op-Ed: Why American Climate Refugees Could Bring Hope, Prosperity to Indiana.” The Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis Star, October 2, 2020. https://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/2020/10/02/op-ed-why-american-climate-refugees-could-bring-hope-prosperity-indiana/3587238001/ ^
  45. Siciliano, John, and Juliet Linderman. “EPA Ties Massive Flood in Historic Md. Town to Climate Change.” Washington Examiner, August 2, 2016. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/epa-ties-massive-flood-in-historic-md-town-to-climate-change ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Biden Administration (Government Agency)
    Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
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