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Nation may get first Black EPA administrator after Biden taps Michael Regan

Crusader Staff Report

Michael Regan, North Carolina’s environmental secretary, has been nominated to lead the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. If confirmed, he will be first Black person to hold the post of the federal agency.

Regan is among several Blacks that President-elect Joe Biden tapped to serve in his incoming cabinet. Regan’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate for final approval.

The EPA regulates pollution from cars and trucks, industrial facilities, oil and gas wells, and power plants. The agency also keeps track of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that cause global warming. At the EPA, Regan would oversee many of the energy policies that regulate how much carbon dioxide the U.S. emits in the coming years.

However, in the last four years, the agency has seen outgoing President Donald Trump roll back climate and pollution regulations. Experts say Regan faces many challenges in rebuilding and restoring the role and purpose of the EPA.

Blacks and poor neighborhoods have disproportionately suffered from air pollution and environmental dangers more than any other ethnic group.

Climate change and pollution has been a hot topic in recent years and during the presidential campaign season. During his term in office, Trump led the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Biden has promised to rejoin it after he takes office.

Biden believes Regan is the best person who can address growing environmental concerns facing the nation and the world.

President-elect Joe Biden’s Office released the following statement about Michael Regan’s nominations:

“We’re in a crisis. Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change. We need to meet this moment with the urgency it demands as we would during any national emergency. And from the crisis, we need to seize the opportunity to build back better than we were before. That’s what this Administration will do.”

Regan spent years at the EPA under the administrations of President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Since 2017, Regan has been the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Prior to that post, he worked on clean energy initiatives for the Environmental Defense Fund, a national environmental advocacy group. In 2017, after defeating Pat McCrory, the Republican incumbent, Governor Roy Cooper appointed Regan to lead North Carolina’s environmental agency.

Environmental experts say Regan has helped North Carolina address climate change as head of the Department of Environmental Quality in North Carolina. Under Regan, North Carolina launched the most ambitious carbon reduction into clean energy plans in the state’s history.

Global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, and U.S. emissions are falling too slowly to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. There is also global warming, more hurricanes, floods, wildfires, heat waves and droughts.

Regan believes that environmental justice and protecting drinking water should be priorities for the EPA under the Biden administration.

During Regan’s tenure, North Carolina has been in the center of a battle to control a potentially dangerous group of chemicals that have contaminated drinking water. The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, include thousands of different formulations and are used in a wide variety of products. When ingested, PFAS can remain in tissues during a person’s entire life, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

State and federal officials have wrestled over how to regulate the use, release and cleanup of PFAS in drinking water. In North Carolina, Regan has led one of the most aggressive responses in the country against PFAS. Shortly after he took over environmental regulation in North Carolina, a PFAS variant known as GenX showed up in the water of the Cape Fear River. The state reacted by cracking down on the company that released the chemical.

For years, the EPA has been waiting for the results of studies about the health effects of PFAS. Currently, the EPA does not require companies that release the chemicals into the environment to stop the practice while safety research is conducted. Regan will now oversee the agency’s approach to regulating such water contaminants.

“We need the EPA to step in [and] set clear, enforceable compliance levels for these harmful pollutants,” Regan says.

On his official President-elect transition website, Biden said Regan negotiated and oversaw the largest coal ash cleanup in the United States and created North Carolina’s first Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board to address societal disparities exacerbated by environmental issues during his tenure as Secretary.

He also founded M. Regan & Associates to help organizations navigate challenges at the intersection of energy, the economy, and the environment. Regan earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and his master’s degree from George Washington University.

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