Senate confirms Regan to lead EPA

Associated Press
President Joe Biden has picked an experienced but not widely known state regulator, Michael Regan of North Carolina, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Regan is head of North Carolina's environmental agency.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed North Carolina regulator Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, picking up the pace for confirmations in President Joe Biden's Cabinet.

Regan, who has served as North Carolina’s top environmental regulator since 2017, will help lead Biden's efforts to address climate change and advocate for environmental justice, two of the administration's top priorities. He is the first Black man to run the EPA.

The Senate also confirmed Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development and federal Judge Merrick Garland as attorney general Wednesday.

All three nominees won bipartisan support for their nominations, although Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voted against Regan. McConnell backed Fudge and Garland.

“These aren’t the nominees that any Republican would have picked for these jobs,” McConnell said ahead of the votes. “But the nation needs presidents to be able to stand up a team so long as their nominees are qualified and mainstream.”

McConnell voted against Regan’s nomination and announced he will oppose New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden's choice to be interior secretary. The two nominees both support “far-left policies that crush jobs″ in his state and across the country, the Kentucky Republican said.

Regan and Haaland “both report straight to the front lines of the new administration’s left-wing war on American energy” and would “unbalance the balancing act between conservation and the economic comeback we badly need,″ McConnell said.

He cited Regan’s support for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, and Haaland’s support for the Green New Deal, a far-reaching, if nonbinding set of proposals to address climate change and reduce economic inequality.

Timing for a vote on Haaland’s nomination has not been set.

Regan is known in his home state for pursuing cleanups of industrial toxins and helping low-income and minority communities significantly affected by pollution.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the chairman of the environment panel, said Regan has a proven record of forging “practical solutions to clean our air and our water, while building a more nurturing environment for job creation and job preservation.''

One of Regan's biggest challenges will be returning scientific integrity to an agency that under former President Donald Trump frequently allowed business groups and other special interests to “play a large role in crafting the agency’s policies,'' Carper said.

West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on the environment panel, said Regan would return the EPA to the policy agenda of the Obama administration, an agenda she said “absolutely devastated my state and other energy-producing states.''

Capito also complained that Regan will take cues from Biden's White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, a former EPA chief. “For almost two months now unaccountable czar Gina McCarthy has been working both behind the scenes and in front of the press to lay the groundwork for the Biden administration’s agenda,'' Capito said. “She’s operating this stronghold office with no transparency, outside of the Senate confirmation process.”

Following news of Regan's confirmation hearing, National Corn Growers Association President John Linder says his agency looks forward to working with Regan on issues of importance to corn farmers overseen by the EPA, most notably the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

"The RFS was a game-changer for corn farmers nearly 20 years ago but previous administrations have failed to uphold the law and implement it as Congress intended," Linder stated. "NCGA hopes to have an open dialogue with the new Administrator upon his confirmation and work together to uphold the RFS, reduce emissions through greater use of biofuels, ensure farmers’ access to crop protection products based on sound science and seek practical solutions to issues important to agriculture.”

Colleen Kottke of the Wisconsin State Farmer contiributed to this report.