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: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — West Coast wildfires drive East Coast air quality alerts 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 BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football 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 TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race 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 Schumer84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? 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 Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios House rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal 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 BurrBipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Bipartisan group to issue 'promising' statement on infrastructure path forward First responders shouldn't have to tackle tigers MORE (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 HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy: Democrats request interview with Exxon lobbyist after undercover tapes | Biden EPA to reconsider Trump rollback on power plant pollution in 2022 | How climate change and human beings influence wildfires Pueblo youth are at the forefront of protecting Indigenous lands Secretary Haaland, Colorado's epic drought highlights the need to end fossil fuel extraction MORE (D-N.M.) and California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCongress must fix loophole that is costing patients at the pharmacy House Democrats expand probe into political interference into CDC during Trump administration Florida asks Supreme Court to block CDC's limits on cruise ship industry 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.