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North Carolina environmental official Michael Regan picked to head EPA
Regan is the first Southern official named to President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Michael Regan, North Carolina’s chief environmental regulator, to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency in his new administration.
Regan, 44, is currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. He is the first Southern official to be named to the Biden Cabinet and, if confirmed, will be the first black man to run the EPA, overseeing nearly 14,000 employees and a $9 billion budget.
Prior to being appointed as head of the Tar Heel State’s environmental department in 2017 by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, Regan had been an official with the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy group, working on clean energy issues.
He has previously worked as a regulator for the EPA from 1998 to 2008 during both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
Earlier this year, Regan reached an agreement with Duke Energy to clean up coal ash contamination in North Carolina and ordered a subsidiary of chemical giant DuPont to clean up toxic chemicals from the Cape Fear River.
However, he was criticized by a number of environmental groups for approving permits for a natural gas pipeline across the state, a project that was later canceled.
The Biden transition rolled out Regan’s appointment as part of a slate of “climate nominees” expected to focus on climate change issues that will be emphasized in the new administration.
In a statement announcing their appointments, Biden said the nominees “share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms.”
Regan is so far the only Southern public official named to the Biden Cabinet, although two — Lloyd Austin, the pick for defense secretary, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the pick for U.N. ambassador — have Southern roots. Austin was born in Alabama and is a graduate of Auburn University; Thomas-Greenfield is from Louisiana and graduated from Louisiana State University.
Louisiana U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond will serve as a senior White House advisor, and Kate Bedingfield, the new White House communications director, grew up in the Atlanta suburbs.
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Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt picked as next EPA chief
Nomination of EPA critic to head agency is drawing fire from environmental groups
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal critic of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and a skeptic of climate change science, has been picked by President-elect Donald Trump to be the EPA’s next administrator.
Pruitt’s nomination to the post was announced December 8 by Trump, who, like Pruitt, has been critical of EPA regulations on the energy industry designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” Trump said in a statement announcing Pruitt’s selection.
“(Pruitt) will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”
Pruitt, who has both sued and been publicly critical of the agency, said in his own statement that “the American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations.”
“I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” he said.
But Pruitt’s nomination has already run into fierce opposition from environmental groups.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement that putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA “is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires.”
Kassie Siegal, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, dismissed Pruitt as “a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry,” pointing to political contributions he has received from Oklahoma oil interests.
“Nominating him to lead the agency that protects our air, water and climate from pollution is like putting the Swamp Thing in charge of draining the swamp,” she said in a statement. “Any senator who doesn’t fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future.”
Pruitt, 48, is in his second term as attorney general. His criticism of the EPA largely stems from the agency’s imposition of new restrictions on coal-fired power plants in order to curb carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents of climate change believe are harming the planet.
Pruitt, who has called the science behind the theory of climate change “unsettled,” sued the EPA after it rejected a plan put forward by the state to control power plant emissions in Oklahoma. He has also accused the EPA of overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by natural gas producers.
At a congressional hearing in 2015, Pruitt charged that the EPA was trying to force an “anti-fossil fuel agenda” on the states.
Trump, too, has been critical of the science behind climate change, once describing it as a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. However, in an interview after he won the November 8 election, he partially walked back that statement, saying there might be a link between human activity and changes in global temperature.