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Senate confirms Michael Regan as EPA chief

Senate confirms Michael Regan as EPA chief
© Roll Call/Pool

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Michael ReganMichael ReganOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior says it isn't immediately reinstating coal leasing moratorium despite revoking Trump order | Haaland seeks to bolster environmental law targeted by Trump | Debate heats up over role of carbon offsets in Biden's 'net-zero' goal OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Biden budget proposes .4 billion for environmental justice MORE as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), putting him in charge of an agency that will play a key role in implementing President BidenJoe BidenGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal Obama, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley team up to urge communities of color to get coronavirus vaccine Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE's climate agenda.

The Senate voted 66-34 in favor of Regan, who will be the first Black man to lead the EPA. Sixteen Republicans joined every Democrat in supporting his nomination.

Regan, who became North Carolina’s top environmental regulator in 2017, will now take the reins of an agency that rolled back dozens of environmental protections under former President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal GOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns MORE. The Biden administration is expected to restore many of those regulations.

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He will also play a major role in efforts to get the U.S. on track to achieve a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and overall carbon neutrality by 2050.

During his February confirmation hearing, Regan said his priorities at the EPA would include restoring science and transparency, supporting career officials, and acting with “urgency” on climate change.

He also said he would operate with a “clean slate” on regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants. Republicans have argued that the Obama-era rule, which aimed to limit carbon pollution from the plants, was too burdensome.

He further pledged to take action on a class of cancer-linked chemicals known as PFAS but didn’t say whether he would set a standard for what constitutes a safe level of the contaminants in drinking water.

Regan’s supporters praised his prior work on environmental issues Wednesday ahead of the Senate vote.

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“Under Donald Trump, the EPA weakened environmental protections, fudged the science [and] completely ignored climate change to potentially disastrous effect, unfortunately,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'Building Back Better' requires a new approach to US science and technology Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia MORE (D-N.Y.). “It’s high time the Senate confirmed someone like Michael Regan, who has made environmental protection the cause of his career, to lead the agency and set it back on its proper footing.”

Republicans opposed to Regan's nomination cited Biden's environmental agenda.

“He and the administration are plainly prepared to put that experience behind the same far-left policies that crushed jobs and prosperity in states like Kentucky throughout the Obama administration,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure MORE (R-Ky.).

“The Clean Power Plan? Back on the table. The absurd Waters of the United States rule? Back on the table,” he added, referring to a power plant rule and a rule that sought to give Clean Water Act protections to small bodies of water.

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrA proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Former Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina Lara Trump leads GOP field in North Carolina Senate race, poll shows MORE (R-N.C.) praised Regan as someone who will listen to people who disagree with him.

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“You will consistently hear from those who have worked with him that whether they agree or disagree with him on a given policy, he always listens and looked to find agreement. This type of praise is not easy to come by on environmental matters, but it’s exactly what we should ask of any nominee to ensure everyone gets a fair hearing at their agency,” Burr said during a floor speech Wednesday.

Regan will be the second Black administrator at the EPA, following Lisa Jackson, who led the agency during the Obama administration.

Regan's confirmation comes as Biden seeks to fill out his Cabinet, with high-profile nominees such as Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior says it isn't immediately reinstating coal leasing moratorium despite revoking Trump order | Haaland seeks to bolster environmental law targeted by Trump | Debate heats up over role of carbon offsets in Biden's 'net-zero' goal Haaland revokes a dozen Trump orders Haaland seeks to bolster environmental law targeted by Trump MORE (D-N.M.) and California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson delay prompts criticism of CDC panel | Pfizer CEO says third dose of COVID-19 vaccine 'likely' needed within one year | CDC finds less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people got COVID-19 MORE awaiting confirmation votes for their posts at the Interior Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, respectively.

Updated at 7:32 p.m.