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Biden Taps DEQ Chief Regan to Head EPA

President-elect Joe Biden announced leading members of his climate team in Cabinet-level posts last Saturday, including North Carolina’s Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Michael Regan as the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In selecting Regan, Biden chose an experienced administrator with a strong scientific background and demonstrated commitment to clean air and water. At DEQ, he spearheaded Gov. Roy Cooper’s agenda for climate action, clean energy, environmental justice, and coming to grips with coal ash and emerging toxic pollutants like GenX.

NCLCV noted in a statement that in naming Regan to head the EPA, Biden had “replaced a fossil fuel industry puppet with an experienced EPA air quality scientist, just as Gov. Cooper did when he put Regan in charge of our DEQ four years ago.”

Gov. Cooper said that he was “proud” of Goldsboro native Regan, who has “served as DEQ secretary with distinction, helping advance my climate change executive order and promoting creative solutions to some of our toughest challenges. He has important work ahead of him helping battle climate change on a national level, and I wish him and his family the best on this next step.”

A Washington Post analysis observed that Biden’s selection of Regan for EPA head along with two other people of color for the top three environmental protection posts “will put environmental justice issues at the center of his administration’s agenda.” Regan will be the first Black man and only the second Black person to head the EPA.

Biden tapped Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) for Secretary of the Interior. Haaland will be the first Native American to lead that department, which in addition to its broad natural resource management responsibilities oversees the administration of Native tribal lands.

In a statement on social media reacting to her selection, Haaland noted, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior. Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all our protected land.” The prospective contrast with the Trump Administration — and its emphasis on exploiting drilling and mining resources on public lands — could not be clearer.

The third of these trailblazing selections was Brenda Mallory as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Mallory is currently the Director of Regulatory Policy for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). As the first Black woman to chair CEQ, Mallory will be in charge of coordinating environmental policy across all federal executive agencies, and will serve as the chief environmental advisor to President Biden. 

Mallory has more than 35 years of experience in environmental law and policy, including 14 years at EPA and service as CEQ General Counsel during the Obama Administration. SELC Executive Director Jeff Gleason said of Mallory, “There is no one better suited to lead the critical work ahead to tackle climate change and restore environmental protections that we have long depended on. Brenda has the insight, experience, courage, and commitment to address the urgent environmental challenges we face.”

In other key environmental selections announced last week, President-elect Biden named former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy; former mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation; former EPA head and current president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council Gina McCarthy as the first-ever National Climate Advisor; and former Obama climate and energy advisor Ali Zaidi as Deputy National Climate Advisor. 

With her experience in the Obama-era auto industry rescue, Granholm is expected to take the lead in Biden’s push to move American car manufacturers to electric vehicle production. As the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg is viewed as understanding the need for additional resources for local and regional public transit infrastructure. He will also be the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet member.

In her statement, McCarthy noted the creation of her new post “puts climate action, for the first time, front and center on the agenda for every agency in the federal government. I look forward to working with the new president and his team to restore U.S. climate leadership at home and abroad and to advance the equitable, job-creating climate solutions we need.”

In a statement, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) praised what it called Biden’s “dream team of climate champions.” LCV Board Chair Carol Browning, a former EPA Administrator, predicted they will “deliver on his promise to tackle the climate crisis. By nominating these leaders, President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris are signaling to the world that the United States is serious about expanding clean energy and reducing the carbon pollution that drives climate change, and serious about leading by example. Clean energy, climate change, justice and protecting our health are central to the Biden plan to rebuild our economy.”

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