Author: Joe Walsh Published: 12/17/2020 Forbes
TOPLINE: President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Michael Regan to serve as his Environmental Protection Agency administrator, multiple news outlets reported Thursday, making the North Carolina-based regulator the first Black man to run the country’s top environmental agency if he’s confirmed — the latest in a string of climate-focused picks in Biden’s administration.
Regan is not new to the EPA. He previously worked at the agency for nearly a decade during President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s administrations, focusing on air quality issues. He later moved to the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, and he was named secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in early 2017. Regan’s colleagues told E&E News he helped to revitalize North Carolina’s environmental regulation agency after years of neglect, leading efforts to hem in air and water pollution by energy and chemical companies in the state. He was also involved in Gov. Roy Cooper (D)’s commitment to make North Carolina’s energy grid carbon neutral by 2050. While campaigning, Biden promised to set an almost identical 2050 goal nationwide.
Regan is a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina. He attended North Carolina A&T State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in earth and environmental science. He then attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he received a Master of Public Administration.
Regan began his career as an environmental regulator for the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration and Bush administration from 1998 to 2008. He then joined the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), where he ultimately became the associate vice president for clean energy and a Southeast regional director. He remained at the EDF for over eight years.
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
In 2017, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper selected Regan to serve as the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. During his tenure, he launched the state’s Environmental Justice and Equity Board with a charter to advise the Secretary on how best to advance environmental justice and promote community engagement, particularly across historically underserved and marginalized communities. He also worked to develop the state’s Clean Energy Plan, which aims to reduce private sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and ultimately move towards carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan also outlines recommendations and goals of accelerating innovations in clean energy technologies, while creating opportunities for rural and urban communities across North Carolina. In addition, Regan oversees the state’s climate change interagency council, which has worked to advance Governor Cooper’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020.
In January 2020, Regan secured an agreement with Duke Energy for the largest coal ash contamination cleanup in United States history. The company committed to excavating 80 million tons of ash across seven of nine coal ash deposits. His department also ordered the chemical company Chemours to address and eliminate toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which they were dumping into the Cape Fear River upstream of a major source of drinking water. While generally favored by environmental organizations, Regan has clashed with the environmental movement. In 2018, he approved permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, though the project was ultimately cancelled.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
On December 17, 2020, members of the Biden presidential transition team told the press that the Regan would be nominated to serve as the next United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. If confirmed, Regan would become the first Black man to run the agency and would be responsible for helping to advance the Biden administration’s commitment to combating climate change, promoting green energy innovations, and addressing the effects of environmental racism.
Regan’s nomination was endorsed by the Environmental Protection Network, an organization composed of former EPA appointees and career staff which was created to oppose the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations.