Michael Regan, Biden’s Pick to Head Agency, Goes to the Senate This Week
President Joe Biden is promoting an agenda intended to ensure we can drink clean water and that polluters must clean up after themselves. That is a direct contrast to the Trump era.
Biden’s choices to run the Environmental Protection Agency and oversee the Clean Water Act reflect a sharp change in policy. Decisions are based on science, not the cronyism of Andrew Wheeler, the Trump loyalist and former coal company lobbyist.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing Wednesday on Michael S. Regan, Biden’s nominee for administrator.
When Regan led North Carolina’s environmental department, he forced Duke Energy to commit to digging up almost 80 million tons of toxic coal ash. Decades of cozy look-the-other-way regulatory actions in the Tar Heel state ended.
Wheeler oversaw efforts to weaken regulating the residue left when coal is burned to generate electricity. Nationwide, power plants produce about 100 million tons of coal ash a year.
The waste is laced with arsenic, lead and mercury. Companies mixed the ash with water and stored it in unlined pits, often near rivers or lakes.
The Trump EPA extended deadlines for utilities to close an estimated 523 leaking, unstable or dangerously placed coal-ash ponds. The North Carolina settlement is the largest coal-ash cleanup in our nation’s history.
“We are holding Duke accountable and will continue to hold them accountable,” Regan said in 2020.
The EPA’s acting administrator is Jane Nishida. She is EPA’s principal deputy head of the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.
Reviewing Trump Era Rules
The Biden administration is reviewing more than 100 Trump rules.
- The list includes a Jan. 15 EPA rule that would allow utilities up to 33 years to replace lead pipes.
That’s much too long according to Dimple Chaudhary. As a senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council, Chaudhary served as lead counsel in a lawsuit over Flint, Mich., drinking water.
“A water utility does not need more than three decades to replace its lead service lines,” she said in 2019. Chaudhary became an EPA lawyer.
- The Biden administration also is reviewing a Trump decision last year to not limit discharges of perchlorate, an industrial chemical that can harm infant brain development when pregnant mothers are exposed to it.
- A Trump rule that strips environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater is targeted, too. Biden wants to conserve 30% of our nation’s land and water by 2030.
By leaving more land and water in its natural state, Biden hopes to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Other Biden EPA appointees who don’t require Senate confirmation are expected to promote a cleaner and more natural environment.
They include Melissa Hoffer. She is the principal deputy general counsel who has asked the Justice Department to pause legal proceedings defending Trump environmental policies. She previously ran the energy and environment bureau in the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.
Victoria Arroyo, the new associate administrator for policy, is the former executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center.
Featured image: Michael S. Regan (N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality)