U.S. EPA's McCarthy mum on new job, says states to lead climate rules

Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Gina McCarthy, said to be

U.S. President Barack Obama's choice as the nation's top

environmental regulator, avoided questions about a potential

promotion on Thursday but said states will play a key role in

shaping federal regulations at an energy and climate policy

forum.

McCarthy, assistant administrator for the U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency's Office of Air and Radiation since 2009, was

tightlipped about whether Obama will nominate her as the EPA's

next administrator.

Sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Obama would nominate

the Boston native as early as this week, with a formal

announcement more likely next week.

Thursday's appearance was the first public event for

McCarthy, 58, since speculation arose that she will replace Lisa

Jackson, the EPA administrator who stepped down this month, as

the face of Obama's fresh push to fight climate change.

Addressing a room full of familiar faces at a workshop of

state and federal regulators, McCarthy applauded local efforts,

such as the nine-state carbon cap-and-trade program in the

Northeast United States, for showing Washington a path forward

on combating climate change.

"At the EPA we will do our part to build on your success,"

she said at the Georgetown University Law Center.

"We can find a way instead of having national solutions...to

open up opportunities for states to use all the flexibility, the

ingenuity, the innovation that you have shown could be done, and

just simply get it done."

The EPA is expected to complete the rule this spring on

emissions standards for new power plants. McCarthy said the

agency is still reading over 1 million public comments that the

proposal has received.

McCarthy recalled that she attended the same conference four

years ago, when still working for the Connecticut Department of

Environmental Protection.

"We were suing the EPA to recognize greenhouse gases as a

pollutant that needed to be regulated under the Clean Air Act,"

she quipped.

McCarthy came to Washington after serving as the top state

environmental regulator in Massachusetts and Connecticut under

Democratic and Republican governors.

She was as environmental policy adviser to

then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and launched the state's

first Climate Protection Action Plan.

Romney was Obama's Republican opponent in the 2012

presidential election and a regular critic of the EPA.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Ros Krasny and Lisa

Shumaker)