Biden to select North Carolina environmental regulator to run EPA

US President-elect Joe Biden speaks as he campaigns on behalf of Democratic US Senate candidates from Georgia Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, ahead of their January 5 runoff elections, during a drive-in campaign rally at Pullman Yard in Atlanta, Georgia, US, December 15, 2020.

Mike Segar | Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden will pick Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Regan, 44, has been Biden’s front runner for the position and if confirmed will be the first Black man to lead the agency.

Regan previously worked at the EPA for the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and worked as a national program manager responsible to create programs to improve energy efficiency and air quality and reduce air pollution.

Regan later worked at the Environmental Defense Fund, where he led efforts to curb the impacts of climate change and air pollution.

He will play a critical role in supporting Biden’s aggressive plan to battle global warming and transition the US economy away from fossil fuels to clean energy. He is also expected to strongly address environmental racism.

“Regan has dedicated his career to environmental work, advancing clean energy, fighting climate change, and addressing coal ash pollution,” said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice. “As EPA Administrator, Regan will play a key role in solving the climate crisis and protecting the health of all communities.”

Biden has vowed to reenter the US into the Paris Climate Agreement and bring the country to net-zero emissions by 2050, though his climate agenda will face immense constraint if Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

Over the last four years, the Trump administration has dismantled more than 70 major environmental regulations, with nearly 30 more in progress.

“Regan will take the EPA’s helm at perhaps the most critical moment in the agency’s history, and he has to do much more than just mop up the toxic mess left by Trump,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

If the GOP does maintain control of the Senate and hinders climate legislation, Biden’s plans will depend on the EPA to implement regulations that reduce pollution from fossil fuel sites and automobiles.

Biden’s administration already plans to implement oil and gas drilling restrictions on public lands, block pipelines across the country and roll back a great deal of Trump’s executive orders on energy.

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