Michael Regan Confirmed as 1st Black Man to Lead Environmental Protection Agency

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Zack Linly
·3 min read
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Michael Stanley Regan speaks during his nomination hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington,DC on February 3, 2021.
Michael Stanley Regan speaks during his nomination hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington,DC on February 3, 2021.

On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick for the next Environmental Protection Agency chief administrator, Michael Regan, making him the first Black man to lead the agency in its 50 years of existence.

Coming on the heels of a Trump administration that treated science like it was merely a suggestion—a Tinder recommendation conservatives consistently swiped left on—Regan said during his confirmation hearing last month that he would “restore the role of science and transparency at EPA.” Now, he has the chance to put his green where his mouth is.

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The Washington Post reports that the only political Regan we recognize (I know, the other one isn’t spelled the same, but you got the reference) was confirmed with a 66 to 34 vote in which 16 Republicans and all Senate Democrats voted in favor. Now that he has been confirmed, Regan, 44, pledges to move “with a sense of urgency” in combating the thing Republicans across the nation think is as mythical as their Obamacare alternative—climate change.

“We all have a stake in the health of our environment, the strength of our economy, the well-being of our communities and the legacy we will leave the next generation in the form of our nation’s natural resources,” he told Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members last month, the Post reports.

Regan is the first Black man to hold the job—and second Black person altogether after Lisa Jackson, who served four years under former President Barack Obama—and he has also pledged to focus on “environmental policy impact on poor and minority communities,” the New York Times reports.

Here’s a little background on Regan as reported by the Post:

Regan, who graduated from North Carolina A&T State University and earned a master’s at George Washington University, worked for more than a decade at the EPA under the administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He returned to North Carolina as southeast regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group, where he focused on lessening the impacts of climate change on the region and on improving air quality in polluted communities.

As North Carolina’s top environmental official, he has generally won praise from members of both parties, as well as from many environmental groups and industry representatives, for his willingness to hear all sides of an issue. But even Republicans who have spoken highly of Regan personally remained skeptical about the Biden administration’s plans to aggressively limit emissions from the nation’s automotive and fossil fuel sectors, insisting that moving too fast could inflict further damage on the battered economy.

One of those Republicans is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), aka Turkey-neck Mitch (I can’t be the only one who calls him that)—the guy who has clearly made it his life’s mission to oppose any and all things Democrat.

According to the Times, McConnell called the Biden administration’s evil agenda to make the environment safer for current and future generations a “left-wing war on American energy.”

As for Regan, Yertle the McConnell admitted that he has “plenty of experience,” but said that the “problem is what he’s poised to do with it.”

McConnell isn’t alone in his skepticism. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) voted against Regan’s confirmation, apparently, on the grounds that he would be working with a former EPA leader, Gina McCarthy, who is now the White House national climate adviser.

“I can’t support Secretary Regan when Gina McCarthy is the orchestra leader for the Biden administration,” Capito said.

Of course, after Regan was confirmed, Capito had nice things to say about him, including that she “really liked meeting and getting to know Michael Regan,” and that he “is a dedicated public servant and an honest man.”