Washington D.C.—President-elect Joe Biden has picked an experienced state regulator, Michael S. Regan of North Carolina to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Regan, who is head of North Carolina’s environmental agency was one of several contenders whose name emerged in recent days. Biden’s pick was confirmed Thursday by a person familiar with the selection process who was not authorized the discuss the matter publicly before the official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Regan became environmental chief in North Carolina in 2017 and made a name for himself by pursuing cleanups of industrial toxins and helping the low-income and minority communities hit hardest by pollution.
If confirmed by the Senate, Regan would take over the EPA after four years that have seen the Trump administration weaken or eliminate key public health and environmental protections. President Donald Trump had made the agency a special target for his drive to cut regulation, saying early on that he would leave only “bits” of the environmental agency behind.
Trump rollbacks and proposed rollbacks include weakening air pollution rules for industries, slashing protection for wetlands and waterways and eliminating Obama-era efforts to halt climate change by curbing exhaust and smokestack emissions from autos and factories. Opponents say some of many other rollbacks in the agency will make it harder for regulators to adopt new limits based on threats highlighted in public health studies.
In North Carolina, Regan led the negotiations that resulted in the cleanup of the Cape Fear River, which has been dangerously contaminated by PFAS industrial compounds from a chemical plant. PFAS have been associated with increased risk of cancer and other health problems. With Duke Energy, he negotiated what North Carolina says was the largest cleanup agreement for toxic coal ash.
Regan also created North Carolina’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board to help low-income and minority communities that suffer disproportionate exposure to harmful pollutants from refineries, factories and freeways.
Regan previously spent almost a decade at the federal EPA, including managing a national program for air pollution issues.
Other past work included serving as an associate vice president for climate and energy issues at the Environmental Defense Fund advocacy group and as head of his own environmental and energy consulting firm.