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Oops… EPA chief says costs of saving the environment 'outweigh the benefits\

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy speaks at a press conference on 'Mayor's National Climate Change Action Agenda during the second day of the Clinton Global Initiative's 10th Annual Meeting at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on September 22, 2014 in New York City. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy slipped up while making a speech Thursday by saying the costs of protecting the environment are larger than the benefits.

"The health and economic benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments by themselves… the costs outweigh the benefits," she said in remarks at Resources for the Future.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy slipped up Thursday by saying the costs of saving the environment are bigger than the benefits. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

"No I'm sorry, the benefits outweigh the costs," she said, quickly correcting herself as the audience laughed. "That was a serious mistake. Nobody can quote that."

Many Republicans have long argued that Democrats are pushing environmental protections to extremes that are causing severe economic damage. Their latest example is the EPA's proposed regulation of existing coal-fired power plant emissions, which they say amounts to a war on coal.

But McCarthy argued that the EPA needs to press on, and said the U.S. can't back away from trying to reduce global warming just because it's difficult. She compared these new efforts to the moon landing that gave the U.S. a chance to do what many thought was impossible.

"We don't bend to the false warnings of those who lack faith in American ingenuity, and toss aside the values that have made this country great," she said. "Can you imagine President Kennedy looking up at the moon and saying, 'nah, let's just wait for somebody else to go first.' "

McCarthy added that a growing U.S. economy will require increased attention to the environment, and said the two ideas are actually compatible.

"Add that up, folks. Think about it, absorb it," she said. "As seas rise, so do insurance premiums, medical bills and food prices, from water scarcity to wilting crops."

When the EPA's proposed rule on existing power plants was released, she said these kinds of steps must be taken in order to stop the oceans from rising.

"If we do nothing, in our grandkids' lifetimes, temperatures could rise 10 degrees and seas could rise by 4 feet," she said.

One last thing…
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