Special Topics in Environmental Management

Michael S. Regan Nominated to Lead Environmental Protection Agency

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s transition team announced Michael S. Regan as the administration’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of Biden’s aggressive climate change plan.

EPA sign

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Other key members of Biden’s Climate Team were also announced and include Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior; Governor Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy; Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality; Administrator Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor; and Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Advisor.

“This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on day one to confront the existential threat of climate change with a unified national response rooted in science and equity,” Biden stated in a press release. “They share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms. Together, on behalf of all Americans, they will meet this moment with the urgency it demands — and seize the opportunity to build back better with good-paying union jobs, climate-resilient infrastructure, and a clean energy future that benefits every single community.”

Regan “faces a massive reconstruction and rebuilding operation,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard University law professor who served as White House counselor for energy and climate change in the Obama administration, as reported in the New York Times.

Regan “has to go in and restore the morale of the career staff,” Freeman said. “He has to make it clear that science and integrity are back. He’s got a raft of rules that he’s got to rescind and replace and strengthen” and must do so “under some time pressure.”

Regan’s History

Regan currently runs the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. If confirmed as the EPA’s Administrator, he would be the first African American male to lead to the agency. Lisa Jackson, also African American, previously ran the Agency under the Obama administration.

Regan was appointed as Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on Jan. 3, 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper. The agency’s mission is to protect the state’s environment and natural resources.

“Under Regan, DEQ created part of the state’s Clean Energy Plan,” according to newsobserver.com. “It called for drastically reducing private sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and attaining carbon neutrality by 2050, as well as accelerating clean energy innovation to create economic opportunities in rural and urban parts of the state.

“Earlier this year, Duke Energy agreed to the largest coal ash clean-up in U.S. history as part of a legal settlement with DEQ, one of the highlights of Regan’s tenure,” according to newsobserver.com. “Duke agreed to excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six sites.”

His appointment in North Carolina followed “more than 18 years of professional experience focused on overcoming complex challenges through environmental advocacy and regulation,” according to Regan’s biography on the North Carolina Environmental Quality (NCEQ) website.

Prior to his current position, Regan served as the Associate Vice President of U.S. Climate and Energy and Southeast Regional Director of the Environmental Defense Fund. He also led the Environmental Defense Fund’s efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change and air quality pollution.

Previous positions also include working in the EPA’s air quality and energy programs under both the Clinton and Bush administrations. “Before leaving the agency, Regan served as a national program manager responsible for designing programs aimed at reducing pollution, and market-based solutions to improve energy efficiency, air quality and climate-related challenges,” according to his NCEQ biography.

He founded M. Regan & Associates, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping organizations find transformational solutions to complex energy, environmental and economic challenges.

His board and commission experience includes UNC School of Law Center for Climate, Energy, Environment and Economics, Green 2.0, N.C. Commission on Global Climate Change, the N.C. Energy Policy Council and the Executive Steering Committee of Envision Charlotte.

Regan is originally from Goldsboro, N.C. and received a bachelor’s degree in Earth and Environmental Science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from George Washington University. He currently lives in Raleigh with his wife and son.

Many environmental activists appear to support Reagan’s selection.

Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement, “Regan will take the EPA’s helm at perhaps the most critical moment in the agency’s history, and he has to do much more than just mop up the toxic mess left by (President Donald) Trump,” as reported by CNN.

Although he is not without critics. He has been accused of “not standing up enough to fossil fuel and agricultural interests” by groups focusing on environmental justice issues, according to the New York Times.

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