President nominates Dot native as environmental protection chief

President Obama on Monday nominated Gina McCarthy, a Dorchester native, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

McCarthy went to UMass Boston for a social anthropology degree, graduating in 1976. She later grabbed a master of science in environmental health engineering and policy and planning at Tufts University.

McCarthy is currently the assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. She previously worked under several Massachusetts governors, including former Gov. Mitt Romney, and before her ascension to the EPA, she was the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

“As a top environmental official in Massachusetts and Connecticut, she helped design programs to expand energy efficiency and promote renewable energy,” Obama said on Monday. “As Assistant EPA Administrator, Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing. She’s earned a reputation as a straight shooter. She welcomes different points of views. I’m confident that she’s going to do an outstanding job leading the EPA.”

Jim Hunt, III, the former Secretary of the Environment for the city of Boston, worked alongside McCarthy as an assistant environmental secretary for the state.

Hunt, who now works as an executive for Northeast Utilities, said that McCarthy is "widely respected for her knowledge, her political acumen and her balanced approach to problem solving."

He called her nomination "a great appointment."

According to a UMass Boston profile, McCarthy spoke at the Green Education for the Next Generation Gala in 2010. “I’m not going to debate climate science,” she said. “The time has come to act.”

Her nomination is likely to catch flak from congressional Republicans and others who say the EPA’s raft of regulations hurt the economy.

“Every day in government, you are faced with a constant push and pull of how far and how fast you can move vs. the decision to insist on getting it all and ultimately getting nothing,” McCarthy said in 2010, according to the profile. “Paste this on your wall and remember it: Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

If confirmed, she would succeed Lisa Jackson, who stepped down from the top job at the EPA in December.

UPDATE: This post was updated with comments from Jim Hunt III. Reporter editor Bill Forry contributed to this report.