Michael Regan Nominated as EPA Head

Michael Regan Nominated as EPA Head

Michael Regan, who heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, is President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

A central figure in Biden’s pledge to combat climate change, foster green energy, and fight environmental racism, Regan would oversee power plants, oil and gas facilities, and other pollutant centers. He would also police the automakers and set standards for fuel-efficiency. If his nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Regan would be the first African-American male to run the EPA.

Enforcement of environmental laws and the protection of those most vulnerable is a key part of the Biden agenda. Growing up in eastern North Carolina, Regan saw toxic pollution, agricultural waste, and environmental destruction being concentrated near communities of color and low-income communities. 

Regan is credited with getting North Carolina and Duke Energy to settle a long-running dispute over cleaning up coal ash ponds, a source of toxic water and air contamination. At $4 billion to $8 billion, it is the most costly coal ash cleanup in the nation.

Under Regan, North Carolina ordered Chemours, a chemical company, to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), from seeping into the Cape Fear River. Used in cookware, stain repellent, and other products, the chemicals have been linked to low infant birth weights, immune system problems, thyroid hormone disruption, and cancer.

With a Democratic governor and Republican legislature, Regan has dealt with a divided state government, experience that could come in handy in Washington. Regan has been credited with restoring morale at the state agency, after the polarizing tenure of his predecessor, whom critics accused of favoring polluting industries.

If confirmed, he would inherit an agency embattled over how it should exercise its authority to clean up pollution and combat climate change. In nominating Regan, Biden passed over more experienced environmental regulators and experts, some of whom were supported by Democrats bent on unwinding the Trump administration’s rollbacks.

Before entering state government, Regan worked as southeast regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund from 2008 to 2016, where he focused on lessening the impacts of climate change in the region, improving air quality in polluted communities, and growing clean energy. Prior to that, he worked at the EPA on air quality and energy issues, serving as a national program manager responsible for designing initiatives aimed at reducing pollution and market-based solutions to improve energy efficiency, air quality, and climate-related challenges.

A native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Regan studied earth and environmental science at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and later earned a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University.

[Image: NC Dept. of Environmental Quality]

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