Gina McCarthy’s challenge to be confirmed by the Senate as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be more difficult once the president rolls out his climate change initiative Tuesday, said an energy specialist with the Bracewell Policy Resolution Group.

Republicans in the Senate “have been agitated with McCarthy over a series of minor things…At the same time, there were administrative problems involving [agency] openness. These have given a lot of lawmakers heartburn,” said Frank Maisano, energy specialist with Bracewell in Washington, DC.

“These small concerns will only will get worse with the action by the president tomorrow [Tuesday],” he noted. It will “throw gasoline on the small fire ” that already exists over McCarthy’s nomination.

He noted that Obama wants to regulate existing coal-fired. power plants out of existence. When asked whether the climate change initiative — regulating greenhouse gas emissions — would apply to natural gas-fired plants, Maisano said, “This is the $64,000 question.”

McCarthy’s nomination has been hanging in limbo every since the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee voted it out in mid-May (see Daily GPI, May 17). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has a standing hold on the nomination over a dispute involving a levee in his state (see Daily GPI, March 19). And Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the committee, is pressing McCarthy to turn over more information about the agency.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won’t bring McCarthy’s nomination to the floor for a vote until “he gets a good count,” Maisano said. The real question is where do the moderate Republicans and Democrats stand on her nomination.

According to a gas industry observer, McCarthy’s confirmation is still a possibility even with the president’s climate change initiative. “There’s always a deal to be done. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

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