The Senate confirmed Michael Regan as EPA administrator on Wednesday, putting the former North Carolina environmental chief in line to chart broad federal policies combating climate change and countering pollution.
The Senate’s 66-34 vote to make Regan the head of the Environmental Protection Agency reflects widespread support from Democrats and concerns by some Republicans he would advance regulations that stifle economic growth as well as pollution.
Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, said Regan would help bolster scientific integrity and morale at the agency, adding that both had languished under former President Donald Trump.
“Michael Regan is the kind of person who can help unite us in common purpose as we respond to the climate crisis we face as well as to clean our air and water and strive to make sure that we don’t leave some of our communities and neighbors behind,” Carper said.
Regan becomes the first Black man to lead the EPA (Lisa Jackson was the first Black woman to serve as administrator, during the Obama years). His expected swearing-in on Thursday also marks Regan’s return to the agency where he worked for nearly a decade under two presidents.
Regan and his allies have sought to assuage GOP concerns by emphasizing his history forging consensus on complex, controversial issues during a four-year tenure as North Carolina’s top environmental regulator. The role put him in the middle of battles over building natural gas pipelines and cleaning up toxic coal ash. Previously, Regan focused on climate change and air quality at the Environmental Defense Fund.
His reputation helped woo some Republican votes. “I am under no illusion our policy preferences are aligned,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota. But Regan “has staked his reputation on being a consensus builder.”
Not everyone in the Republican caucus was convinced.
“Mr. Regan has plenty of experience. The problem is what he’s poised to do with it,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “He and the administration are plainly prepared to put that experience behind the same far-left policies that crushed jobs and prosperity” during the Obama administration.
Regan now will join Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy in developing new policies to fulfill President Joe Biden’s green ambitions, including throttling U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s highways and power grid.
At the EPA, early action is expected to include writing new measures limiting methane emissions from oil wells and greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, though policies governing chemical safety, water pollution and power plants also are on tap. The agency is already reviewing more than four dozen Trump-era policies for possible rewrites.
Biden is still waiting on the Senate to confirm other key environmental officials, including Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, and Deb Haaland, to be Interior secretary.
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