Energy & Environment

EPA chief: Biden’s climate goals are ‘an opportunity to lead’

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan appeared at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Wednesday, answering questions about the status of investigations into Trump-era moves at the agency and the Biden administration’s carbon emissions targets.

In a hearing on the EPA’s budget request for fiscal 2022, Regan said the administration’s discretionary funding request of $11.2 billion “recognizes the profound urgency and existential threat of the climate crisis” and “reflects the understanding that a healthy environment and a healthy economy are not mutually exclusive, they actually go hand in hand.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) questioned Regan on the White House’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by half in the next nine years as the country’s nationally-determined contribution under the Paris Climate Agreement. Inhofe noted that China, the world’s largest emitter, did not commit to similar reductions and has said its emissions peak is still to come.

Regan responded that emissions reduction goals were not simply a sacrifice but “an opportunity to lead in technological advancements and create jobs, [and] the market is trending directionally in this way.”

“What we saw last week was the president rallying the world to begin to address this issue and I think China was at the table,” he added. “I see America as a leader; the president’s jobs plan isn’t following China.”

White House environment and energy officials, including Regan and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, have emphasized that they see a transition to renewable energy and economic growth as compatible. Earlier this month, the United Mine Workers Union said it would back the administration’s energy transition plan if its execution preserved fossil fuel workers’ jobs.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked Regan about the findings of Office of Inspector General (IG) probes into potential political interference into scientific processes under the Trump administration.

“I think we’re taking a careful look at what the IG reports reveal to us, which are alarming,” Regan replied, adding, “We’re following the advice of our science and doing a complete review of many of the regulations that were put forward in the previous administration and doing a full accounting.”

Whitehouse pressed Regan on whether the watchdog was exploring the potential source or motivation of any interference, asking, “Are you simply going to treat this as if this was some sort of peculiar mass allergy to science that had no impetus behind it?”

“We’re taking a look at what actually occurred, what the motivations were. We’ll govern ourselves accordingly with what’s presented,” Regan replied.

Whitehouse told Regan that in the course of the investigations and reviews, “I urge you not to overlook the ‘why.'” 

Tags carbon emissions Greenhouse gas James Inhofe Jennifer Granholm Michael Regan Paris Climate Accords Sheldon Whitehouse
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