In West Virginia, coal-mining jobs increased from about 21,600 in early 2009 to an Obama administration high of 24,600 in early 2012, before dropping to 21,400 late last year, according to quarterly data companies report to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Analysts have cited a variety of factors in the ongoing decline of Central Appalachian coal, including low natural gas prices, competition from other coal regions, tougher environmental rules, and the mining out of high quality and easy-to-reach reserves.
McCarthy ran EPA's air pollution division during Obama's first term, but Democratic supporters emphasized her work as a chief environmental regulator for 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.
A Boston native, McCarthy holds degrees in social anthropology, from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and in environmental health engineering, planning and policy from Tufts University.
McCarthy defended her agency's proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from any new coal-fired power plants, saying the plan was intended in part to "provide a path forward" for coal.
EPA says the rule would be "technology-forcing," as intended by the Clean Air Act, and would prompt the industry to do more to perfect and deploy technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.
But Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said that pressure from Republicans against McCarthy's nomination is really just an effort by the GOP to continue to stall action on climate change.
"It's not a debate about Gina McCarthy," Sanders said. "It's a debate about whether we are going to listen to science and address global warming."Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.