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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: 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 Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit 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 BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration 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 TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks 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 SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border 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 McConnellRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists 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 BurrNorth Carolina mayor Rett Newton launches Senate bid Democratic hopeful Jeff Jackson raises .3M for North Carolina Senate bid Rick Scott 'very optimistic' Grassley will run for another term 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: 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 Haaland return sets up Biden decision on Utah national monuments shrunk by Trump Biden hopes to boost climate spending by billion MORE (D-N.M.) and California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOver 500,000 people sign up for ObamaCare in special sign-up period Harris in difficult starring role on border Biden's HHS commits another M to ad campaign touting expanded health care coverage 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.