Black Excellence: A Black Man To Lead US Environmental Protection Agency

by Duke Magazine

The US Senate has confirmed Joe Biden’s nomination for the chief administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, on Wednesday. In the agency’s 50 years of existence, this confirmation makes Regan the first Black man and 16th administrator to lead the agency.

The EPA’s first Black administrator was Lisa Jackson, and she held the role for four years during President Barack Obama’s term in office.

Regan has 20 years of experience working in the environmental protection sector in different capacities, which makes the landslide confirmation by the Senate no surprise — 66 to 34 — with all the Democrats and 16 Republicans voting in his favor.

“We all have a stake in the health of our environment, the strength of our economy, the well-being of our communities, and the legacy we will leave the next generation in the form of our nation’s natural resources,” he told Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members last month, the Post reports.

President Biden has been extremely vocal about making America and the world more eco-friendly by cutting the country’s gas emissions and helping minority and poor communities severely affected by pollution.

The 44-year-old new Chief of EPA, therefore, has a big task ahead of him starting with undoing unfavorable and lax policies implemented by the Trump administration. He pledges to do just that by focusing on “environmental policy impact on poor and minority communities,” according to the New York Times.

“I will be laser-focused on how we limit methane emissions,” he said, adding that environmental justice and water quality will be on his list of priorities.

The Goldsboro, North Carolina native developed a love for the environment at a tender age while hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina.

He is the first EPA Administrator to graduate from a Historically Black College and University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, and has a master’s degree in Public Administration from The George Washington University, according to the agency’s website. 

Regan began his career at the EPA working under the administrations of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for more than a decade and returns to head the agency in a full-circle moment. He served as the national program manager responsible for designing strategic solutions with industry and corporate stakeholders to reduce air pollution, improve energy efficiency and address climate change.

In 2017, he became the southeast regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund for North Carolina. His focus was on lessening the impacts of climate change on the region and improving air quality in polluted communities.

The family man stood out during his term of office especially in a politically divided country and was praised for being fair to all parties.

Earlier this year, Regan led the North Carolina agency to undertake the biggest coal ash clean-up in the country after a settlement with Duke Energy. Duke Energy had been dumping highly toxic waste which is a by-product of coal in the open air near residential neighborhoods and now they are tasked to collect more than 80 million tons of coal ash and dispose of them properly and safely, so they do not seep into groundwater.

“We’re excited to watch him do for the EPA what he did for North Carolina: put people and policy over politics, and work with scientists, stakeholders, lawmakers of both parties, and above all, the most impacted communities, to protect all Americans from polluters and climate change,” Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations at the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement Wednesday.

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