Flint, MI–President-elect Joe Biden is expected to appoint former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy to serve as the senior White House adviser on climate change–to many Flint residents’ dismay,
McCarthy is a familiar name for residents and activists who have been protesting the Flint water crisis and related issues for years. She was the EPA chief under President Barack Obama during the crisis, and currently serves as the president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. But during her time at the EPA, she was heavily criticized for the agency’s involvement in the water crisis.
Former Mayor Karen Weaver says she feels like the country seems to have forgotten about that.
“Everybody comes through here and says they’re not going to forget Flint, but we keep getting slapped in the face every time we turn around,” said Former Mayor Karen Weaver.
Several Flint residents took to social media to express similar sentiments, and urge people to “Tell Joe Hell No” to this appointment.
Weaver said when she first heard Biden was expected to pick McCarthy, she was surprised. But then she wasn’t.
“I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m outraged. But that’s what keeps happening to us over and over. It’s like, well here we go again,” Weaver said. “[McCarthy] was over the EPA when the water crisis happened. She was complicit because she was quiet. Nobody’s being held accountable for the residents in the community.”
McCarthy and former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder testified about the Flint water crisis at a congressional panel in March 2016. McCarthy insisted the EPA was not to blame for what happened in Flint, and said that Michigan officials hindered the agency’s ability to intervene.
“I will take responsibility for not pushing hard enough, but I will not take responsibility for causing this problem. It was not EPA at the helm when this happened,” she said.
In October 2016, the EPA’s inspector general found that the EPA was partially responsible due to weaknesses in management and communication.
“The federal response was delayed, in part, because the EPA did not establish clear roles and responsibilities, risk assessment procedures, effective communication and proactive oversight tools,” the report read.
In August of this year, the U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy denied the EPA’s motion to dismiss lawsuits against them for negligence in the water crisis.
Local activist Arthur Woodson was at the congressional hearings where Snyder and McCarthy testified, and said it was frustrating to watch them play the “blame game.” He’s frustrated again now by the fact that she has been nominated for this position.
“It feels like they are numb from the federal government all the way down to the local government about how people in the city of Flint feel about this water crisis,” he said. “They got over it and we didn’t.”
Woodson met with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris when she visited Flint, and told her how residents felt about the water crisis.
“I emailed her today and told her this is ridiculous, this is a slap in the face,” he said. “That he would turn around and nominate someone who poisoned our city. That’s like saying, thank you for your vote, now that I’m in, I don’t care about Flint.”
Biden has yet to make a formal announcement regarding the appointment of McCarthy.