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Washington Watch: Gina McCarthy denies she’s leaving as Biden’s climate lead after reports cite frustration with slow pace of emissions fight

President Joe Biden campaigned on an aggressive plan to step up the U.S.’s leadership role as a rich nation in slowing its globe-warming emissions and he named Gina McCarthy as his domestic authority in the effort.

It’s a post meant to be more powerful than one housed in the Energy Department or at the Environmental Protection Agency.

McCarthy, however, reportedly had grown frustrated with the pace of change and was close to resigning, a handful of news reports said late Thursday. McCarthy denied the reports of her impending resignation in a tweet.

The alleged frustration was mounting, the reports said, even though the Biden administration has used executive orders like making government buildings more efficient, taking a bigger leadership role with John Kerry as climate envoy, and other steps in what officials have called a “whole of government approach” to help keep the Earth from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius in coming years.

Read: ‘Enormous buying power of federal government’: Biden aims for carbon-neutral U.S. by 2050 with new executive order

A bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year included some targeted environmental spending. But a hallmark of the Biden climate effort, the Build Back Better spending plan that was meant to get more electric vehicles
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on the road and more solar panels
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on roofs, among other proposals, has so far fizzled in a tightly divided Congress.

McCarthy, whose title is White House Climate Adviser, in a tweet late Thursday denied reports she is leaving the post. Her imminent departure was first reported by Reuters, citing associates of McCarthy, and later by the New York Times.

“We’ve made great progress these past 14 months, but we have much more work to do — and I remain excited about the opportunities ahead,” McCarthy said. She previously served at the EPA during the Obama administration.

Some responses to her Tweet questioned why individual provisions in Build Back Better that seemed to have broader support, such as incentives for EVs, had not yet been stripped from the stalled bill and tested on their own in Congress, a step Biden once said was under consideration.

Biden, in responding to the Russian attack on Ukraine and that aggression’s impact on driving up energy prices
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has had to walk a narrow line. He has generally supported making sure that a mix of energy is available in the U.S., even during the transition to cleaner fuel, or risk even greater price jumps for an economy already grappling with broad inflation, as some Republicans suggest. That includes support of the fossil-fuel
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sectors responsible for the bulk of emissions. Biden has opened the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and approved a higher mix of ethanol usually sidelined in summer months.

What’s more, Biden’s plans to use executive authority to enact tougher new rules on greenhouse pollution from power plants and autos could be sharply limited by an upcoming decision from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

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