Dec 17, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden picks North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan to lead EPA

Joe Biden
Biden delivering a speech on climate change in September. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Michael Regan, the top environmental regulator in North Carolina, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a source familiar with the decision confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: If confirmed by the Senate, Regan would be the first Black man to head the agency, which will be tasked with strengthening environmental standards after four years of the Trump administration's aggressive efforts to undo Obama-era protections.

The big picture: Regan could be part of a slate of environmental and climate-related nominees expected to be announced as soon as this weekend, including former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm for Energy Department head and Gina McCarthy for domestic climate czar.

  • Regan emerged as the leading candidate for EPA after civil rights groups objected to the nomination of Mary Nichols, who led the California Air Resources Board.

Background: The North Carolina regulator brings ties to the environmental movement, having served in several senior roles with the Environmental Defense Fund in the 2010s, per his LinkedIn bio.

  • The 44-year-old Regan also brings some EPA experience to the job, having served in multiple air quality roles there early in his career under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
  • His record in North Carolina includes a major settlement with utility giant Duke Energy on cleaning up wastes from coal-fired power production called coal ash.

What they're saying: Multiple environmental groups cheered the pick, including the League of Conservation Voters — which has close ties to the Democratic establishment — and 350.org, which part of the left flank of the green movement.

What we're watching: Regan's mandate at EPA will include breathing life into the Biden administration's vow to increase emphasis on the disproportionate pollution burdens faced by the poor and communities of color.

  • "[I]t will be critical for Regan to listen to and center the needs of environmental justice communities in the EPA’s policy making," Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior LCV official, said in a statement.

Go deeper: What to make of the rest of Biden's climate and energy picks

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