On Thursday, the Senate approved Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency, placing the North Carolina regulator in charge of restoring the Trump administration's relaxed air and water pollution rules.

Michael Regan

Michael S. Regan
(Photo : White House on Wikimedia Commons)
Michael S. Regan

Regan served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Protection for four years. During that time, his record of solving environmental concerns impacting low-income people and communities of color attracted national attention. It also elevated him over more powerful state regulators like California's Mary Nichols to a Cabinet-level role.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Environment Committee, said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, "Michael Regan is the sort of person who will help us organize in the shared cause when we adapt to the climate challenge we face, as well as clean our air, clean our water, and work to make sure that we don't leave any of our cities, any of our neighbors behind in our attempts to do so."

Senatorial Approval

Regan was approved by a majority of 66 to 34, with 16 Republicans opposing all 50 Democrats in his favor. He would be the first Black man to head the EPA and the second African-American to do so after Lisa Jackson, Obama's first-term administrator.

Environmentalists praised him in North Carolina to block an expansion of the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline and negotiate a multibillion-dollar contract with Duke Energy to clean up coal ash pollution dumps from the state's power plants. He has won a big deal with Chemours to resolve pollution of poisonous "forever" PFAS substances.

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Biden-Regan Partnership

President-Elect Biden Announces Climate And Energy Appointments
(Photo : (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images))
WILMINGTON, DE - DECEMBER 19: President-elect Joe Biden announces members of his climate and energy appointments, including Congresswoman Deb Haaland, at the Queen theater on December 19, 2020 in Wilmington, DE. Secretary of Interior nominee Deb Haaland is the first Native American nominated to the presidential cabinet.

Regan will head an organization that will play a significant regulatory role in President Joe Biden's ambitious climate policy as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Crafting a new carbon law for power plants, now that the Trump EPA's version has been struck down by a federal judge, strengthening tailpipe pollution restrictions for vehicles and light trucks, and reducing methane spills from the oil and gas industry would be at the top of his to-do list.

Biden's efforts to remove greenhouse gases from the nation's energy grid by 2035 and put the country on track to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century would depend heavily on the power plant law to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

Janet McCabe, the Biden administration's candidate for Regan's deputy, has a long history of writing strict environmental legislation, including the Obama administration's version of the power plant code, which was blocked by the Supreme Court before it could go into effect. Dan Utech, the Obama administration's chief of staff, and Joe Goffman, the office in charge of air quality rules, have also returned to the department to work under Regan.

Though Republican lawmakers and state officials may support Regan on topics such as PFAS cleanups and the Superfund program for polluted lands, it is unlikely that he will be able to reconcile Biden's proposals for ambitious climate change with Republicans' resistance to laws that they feel threaten their states' fossil fuel industries.

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