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EPA’s McCarthy Defends Natural Gas

The Obama administration, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), continues to favor a multifaceted approach to clean energy that includes natural gas, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a Resources for the Future (RFF) audience Thursday.

McCarthy defended the fossil fuel to a critical audience of renewable energy supporters. “Natural gas in the U.S. has been a game changer. The abundance of low-cost natural gas started an energy transition that we are really taking advantage of and hoping to follow. It has been a significant benefit to U.S. air quality, addressing pollutants like mercury in a way that maintains reliability because it is accessible and affordable,” McCarthy told a broadcast RFF symposium.

Under EPA’s draft Clean Power Plan, which gives states flexibility on how to reach the goals of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, McCarthy expects to see the use of all kinds of energy supplies. “We’re not in the business of picking winners and losers. We are looking for the most cost-effective way of reducing carbon pollution.”

Responding to a question from the audience about problems with methane leaks, the EPA administrator said, “we recognize, and I think the president does, that methane remains an issue of concern with the natural gas sector, both oil and natural gas. We’ve taken some regulatory steps in that arena…but we know there’s more to be done.”

She said the president had tasked her agency with collecting data and producing some white papers addressing the cause and extent of the methane leak problem. Then they would be “looking for strategies to get at it using all kinds of tools. So we recognize that that’s a challenge.

“We recognize water is a significant concern,” and, she told the clean energy audience, “we recognize there’s a lot of concern that too much reliance on natural gas will squeeze out renewables.” But “the president’s plan and EPA actions are multifaceted.” They are looking for many solutions from the states, from markets and from business.

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