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Administrator Gina McCarthy, Remarks at RI Energy and Environmental Leaders Day, As Prepared

It’s so great to finally be at the famed Energy and Environmental Leaders Day. I would have come last year, but I was busy breaking a world record, as the longest nominated-but-unconfirmed Administrator in history. But don’t you worry, because I shattered that record.

It’s great to be here. New England is my home, and I’ve been lucky to call many of you neighbors and colleagues for so long. Let me first just give a shout out to our incredible Regional Administrator, and Rhode Island native, Curt Spalding. Curt, from your legendary leadership at “Save the Bay,” to your amazing work in this region on behalf of EPA, it’s safe to say that people here are better off thanks to your service.

All Rhode Islanders are lucky to have two senators who are energy and climate champions. I know Senator Reed couldn’t be here today, but I still want to thank him for all he’s done and continues to do. And of course, I also want to thank Senator Whitehouse for his unwavering climate leadership. Climate change is the most environmentally and economically consequential crisis of our time. And Senator, you’re a bona fide climate hero. Your staff tell me you’ve given more than 75 climate speeches on the senate floor to date. I half-expect you to dawn a cape next time you give one. You deserve credit for your endurance and your encyclopedic knowledge of climate facts…but I don’t think it’s all hard work for you, I think you enjoy it. You can tell Senator Whitehouse is having fun with that ear-to-ear grin on his face…I’m sure he’s wearing it right now.

I have to admit, I envy you sometimes, Senator, because you have some great source material. It’s not like I can just casually mention the Spice Girls in a speech without getting weird looks. In seriousness: Senator, in a time of politicking over personality, you stay true to your values and passion. And we all wish we had more of that around. I know why you love coming home. Because here in Rhode Island, and in New England, people get it. Here, you don’t have to justify climate action—because you can feel the urgency.

We know hotter weather brings more smog and asthma, which harms especially our children. That matters in Rhode Island, where asthma rates are above the national average. We know risings seas and more extreme weather destroy property and precious coastal economies, which is especially hard on New Englanders.

The list of reasons why we need action is long. We don’t need more convincing—we just need the will to act. We’re lucky to have a President that gets it. President Obama laid out a Climate Action Plan last year. It’s a plan to cut harmful carbon pollution fueling climate change; to build a more resilient nation; and to lead the world in our global climate fight.

We already limit pollutants like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, but there are no limits on carbon pollution. That’s why, as part of the President’s plan, EPA took a big step forward by proposing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from our nation’s largest source, power plants.

Our proposal was crafted with innovation in mind. It’s flexible, giving states tons of options to cut carbon pollution, from using more efficient plants to building more wind and solar. Best of all, our plan will deliver market certainty to unleash more innovation, so we can realize a low-carbon economy that will fuel growth for decades to come. Yes, climate action means healthier people and a safer environment…but it also means strong and sustainable economic growth. Climate action doesn’t just protect the environment, it propels economic prosperity.

Don’t take my word for it: Just look at what we did on fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks. Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, and EPA action, your cars are getting historically high gas mileage. That means less money at the pump, and less pollution in the air, especially for Rhode Islanders who suffer from traffic pollution.

And it means more jobs, too. Our rule fueled a resurgent American auto industry. It’s more competitive than ever, selling more cars than it has in years. That’s just the auto industry. When it comes to clean energy, since President Obama took office, wind energy has tripled, and solar energy has grown ten-fold. That means thousands of American jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. And if you need more proof—just look around right here in New England. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has been helping cut pollution, spur clean energy investment, and grow New England economies.

Despite all that, we still hear folks crying the sky is falling when it comes to climate action. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, they say, quote—“…I’m not a scientist, but climate action is going to ruin the economy…” Well, they have one thing right—they are not scientists. The funny thing is, they’re not economists, either. They’re not doctors. They’re not climate experts of any kind...

But guess what, we’ve got some pretty good scientists at NASA. And at NOAA. And at EPA. World-renowned scientists, medical professionals, and economists are standing up for climate action. We trust these people to put astronauts in space; to forecast the weather; and let us know if the air is safe for our kids to play outside.

For decades, when science pointed us to health risks, we acted responsibly. We had faith in American ingenuity. Since EPA has existed, we’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent, while the economy tripled in size. There’s one thing we can all agree on, whether you live in New England, or anywhere else in the world: we have a clear, moral obligation to our families and our children, to give them world that’s safe, healthy, and rich with opportunity.

Acting on climate is a big step in the right direction.