Senate confirms Michael Regan as EPA chief
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Michael Regan 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 Biden’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 Trump. The Biden administration is expected to restore many of those regulations.
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.
“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 Schumer (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 McConnell (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 Burr (R-N.C.) praised Regan as someone who will listen to people who disagree with him.
“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 Haaland (D-N.M.) and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra 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.