Biden climate pick faces bipartisan backlash for previous handling of Flint water crisis

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President-elect Joe Biden's new climate appointee, Gina McCarthy, is facing renewed scrutiny over how she handled the Flint water crisis while serving in the Obama administration.

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As former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, McCarthy oversaw the agency's response to levels of lead rising in the city's water supply. Former Mayor Karen Weaver, a Democrat who directly worked with McCarthy at the time, reportedly said she was disappointed with Biden's pick.

“You want to talk about climate change, but what about environmental justice?” she asked, according to MLive on Wednesday. She added that the crisis “happened on your watch. You played a major role in Flint being poisoned.”

Michigan Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint township, was critical as well.

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In a statement, he said: I thank President-elect Joe Biden for making clear that combatting climate change will be a top priority in his administration … While the position of White House Climate Coordinator does not require confirmation by Congress, we must never forget the failures of the Flint water crisis."

He also noted that "[a]ll levels of government, including the state of Michigan and the Environmental Protection Agency, failed Flint families."

"The EPA should not have taken the state of Michigan at its word about the quality of Flint’s water."

McCarthy has specifically faced backlash for not doing enough to address actions taken by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. During a House Oversight hearing in 2017, McCarthy said she regretted her agency being "so trusting of the state for so long."

“We missed the opportunity to quickly get EPA’s concerns on the radar screen," she added. "That, I regret.”

At the time, Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz was the Republican chairman of the Oversight Committee. On Wednesday, he tweeted that "Biden is so oblivious about Flint, Michigan water that he is empowering Gina McCarthy again."

"She was a disaster at EPA, and now he is bringing her back for more," he added. "Michigan, your votes mattered, and Biden is bringing Flint water to all of us."

Biden's team did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.

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McCarthy, who currently serves as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, has received praise from others.

Former Vice President Al Gore, a leading figure in the left's climate activism, said McCarthy was "uniquely suited for the job."

According to The New York Times, he said Biden's pick of McCarthy and former Secretary of State John Kerry "affirms that Joe Biden is serious about America leading by example and driving deep reductions in pollution and climate emissions.”

The Sunrise Movement, which has promoted the Green New Deal, reportedly said they were "encouraged" by Biden picking her.

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“McCarthy was among our initial picks for the role because she understands the urgency of the latest science and the need to use every tool available in the executive branch to stop the climate crisis. The real test, however, of Biden’s commitment to his bold climate plan is if this role has the teeth necessary to be effective," Sunrise spokesman Garrett Blad said.

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