President-elect Joe Biden has tapped North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary Michael Regan to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, multiple news outlets reported Thursday.
Mary Nichols, who leads the California Air Resources Board, was originally projected to be the favorite but her appointment reportedly fizzled after environmental justice groups raised concerns, calling her record on environmental racism "bleak." Regan will be the first Black man to lead the EPA, if confirmed by the Senate.
- Under Regan's watch at the DEQ, Duke Energy agreed to the largest coal ash cleanup in U.S. history, and environmentalists lauded his appointment to the federal agency.
Under President Donald Trump, the EPA has focused on reversing many Obama-era rules on power plant emissions, coal ash, tailpipe emissions and more. Regan is seen by environmentalists as antithetical to this strategy.
In North Carolina, he was considered a key player in implementing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order on climate change that called for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2005 levels, get 80,000 zero emissions vehicles registered in the state and reduce state-owned building energy consumption 40%, all by 2025, according to Environment America.
He also led the state's DEQ through a contentious proceeding with Duke: Last spring, DEQ ordered the utility to excavate all of its coal ash ponds, following "rigorous scientific review" and community input. Duke appealed the order but ultimately reached a deal with environmentalists that will have the utility fully excavate and close the majority of its coal ash ponds — a total of 124 million tons.
Regan has been with the DEQ since 2017 and previously worked at the Environmental Defense Fund and on the U.S. EPA's air quality and energy programs under President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Environmentalists say his strong record on fighting water and air pollution as well as his experience working with bipartisan leadership bode well for his tenure at EPA.
"He served at the agency under both President Bush and President Clinton, and he has worked well with the GOP-controlled legislature in North Carolina. His ability to work across the aisle will be a strong asset in DC," Environment America Acting President Wendy Wendlandt said in a statement.
"After four years of EPA leaders who betrayed the fundamental goal of the agency — protecting the environment — we, and all Americans who recognize the dangers of pollution, look forward to Secretary Regan redirecting the agency toward using science to build a cleaner, safer and healthier future," she said.
Biden earlier this week tapped former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy and yesterday announced Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., would lead the Department of Interior.