WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Michael Regan as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, The New York Times reports. Regan, 44, currently North Carolina’s top environmental official, would be the second Black person to lead the agency charged with protecting public health and the environment, after Lisa Jackson, who headed the EPA during President Obama’s second term.
Choosing Regan would signal not only Biden’s determination to reverse the disastrous environmental rollbacks of the Trump administration but also a commitment to environmental and social justice that the Biden-Harris campaign pledged to make a priority, said EWG President Ken Cook.
“There is no other agency that has seen its mission undermined more during the Trump administration than the EPA,” said Cook. “Michael’s experience at the state and federal levels, and his deep commitment to public health, are exactly what is required to rebuild the agency, its reputation and its critical mission to ensure clean air and safe drinking water, protect Americans from toxic chemicals and combat the climate crisis.”
EWG board member Bill Ross, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator from 2001 to 2009, also praised Biden’s choice.
“Michael Regan has done an outstanding job as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality,” said Ross. “Under his leadership, an agency that had been demoralized and diminished regained its footing, dealt effectively with major environmental and public health challenges, and has been a leader on environmental justice, climate change and renewable energy. Secretary Regan has displayed the leadership skill set that is sorely needed now at the US EPA, and I am confident that he'll do an outstanding job there.”
Regan was appointed secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2017. Before that, he spent more than eight years at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, including as the group’s Southeast regional director. Before joining EDF, he worked at the EPA for nearly 10 years, focused mostly on federal air policy.
As DEQ secretary, Regan was instrumental in developing the state’s plan to address climate change, including its clean energy plan to make the state carbon neutral by 2050, the first such plan in the Southeast. In 2018, Regan set up DEQ’s Environmental Justice and Equity Board to assist the department in its efforts to make sure all communities in the state, regardless of race or income, are afforded the same attention.
Under his leadership, the DEQ won an agreement with Chemours Co. to stop pollution of North Carolina’s drinking water with the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.
“Few people know more about PFAS and the public health emergency posed by these toxic ‘forever chemicals’ than Michael Regan,” said Cook. “As EPA administrator, he will have a chance to fulfill President-elect Biden’s pledge to set a national PFAS drinking water standard, to designate PFAS as hazardous substances, and to get PFAS out of everyday products. He will also have a chance to reduce industrial discharges of PFAS, a challenge he understands very well.”
Cook said the past four years have seen EPA turned into a rubber stamp for the anti-science, anti-public health agenda of the chemical, pesticide and fossil fuel industries, while largely abandoning its mission of protecting the environment, the nation’s irreplaceable natural resources and public health and safety.
“The Trump administration’s rollbacks have hurt children, communities of color and lower-income Americans the most,” said Cook. “That must be turned around, and Michael is the right person for the job.”
If confirmed, Regan will replace Andrew Wheeler, a former top coal industry lobbyist and right-hand-man to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oka.), a notorious climate change denier.
“Wheeler has spent his career working for the interests of enemies of public health,” said Cook. “Michael has spent his career working to protect it. If he is confirmed, it will be a new day at the EPA: Americans can once again trust that the nation’s top environmental official will embrace science and put the public good first.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.