WASHINGTON – President Obama's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is already running into resistance from the fossil fuel industry over concerns that she would escalate a "war" on oil, coal and natural gas.
EPA veteran Gina McCarthy was one of three nominees Obama announced at the White House late Monday morning. He also tapped MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and Walmart's Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his next budget chief.
All will have to undergo Senate confirmation. And McCarthy -- given her background and the controversial nature of the agency she wants to lead -- could face the toughest screening.
"Today's announcement that the president wants Gina McCarthy to serve as the next EPA administrator is a clear indication that the administration will continue a war on affordable energy," Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement.
"Throughout her career McCarthy has implemented policies that attempt to constrain the use of reliable energy sources. ... It appears the president is rewarding these efforts by increasing her ability to implement an ideological and political agenda. If confirmed as EPA administrator, McCarthy will continue the regulatory attack on oil, coal and natural gas with the result that Americans will experience increasing energy costs and high unemployment rates."
McCarthy led the Office of Air and Radiation, and in that role oversaw regulations that some in the domestic energy industry blame for lost coal jobs.
Key were first-ever regulations on greenhouse gas emissions out of new power plants. That followed new controls on mercury emissions.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the nomination makes clear that Obama "wants to continue pursuing an aggressive climate agenda at EPA."
Environmental and air quality advocates, though, credit McCarthy with helping implement rules that could curb everything from asthma attacks to heart attacks.
Obama described McCarthy as someone who could balance smart environmental regulation and economic growth. He said that at the EPA so far, she has pursued "practical cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing."
"She has earned a reputation as a straight-shooter," Obama said Monday. "I'm confident that she is going to do an outstanding job."
The nominations Monday preceded Obama's first Cabinet meeting of his second term. They also signal that the White House is trying to get back to normal business after the president and Congress failed to avert the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that started taking effect Friday. While the president has warned of dire consequences for the economy as a result of the cuts, the White House does not want the standoff with Congress to keep the president from focusing on other second term priorities, including filling out his Cabinet, as well as pursuing stricter gun laws and an overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
His nominee for the budget office, Burwell, is a Washington veteran, having served as OMB's deputy director in the Clinton administration and chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. She currently runs the Walmart Foundation, the retail giant's philanthropic wing, and previously served as president of the Gates Foundation's Global Development Program.
The White House official credited Burwell with being a principal architect of a series of budget plans in the 1990s that led to a budget surplus.
Walmart president Mike Duke called Burwell a strong leader with a "clear vision for making big things happen."
"She understands business and the role that business, government and civil society must play to build a strong economy that provides opportunity and strengthens communities across the country," Duke said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.