(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday picked North Carolina’s top environmental regulator to become the first Black man to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Michael Regan will replace the agency’s current administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist who took over in 2018 when his predecessor Scott Pruitt resigned amid investigations over his spending, ethics and management at the agency.
The Trump administration’s EPA has spent years weakening environmental protections, including rolling back several Obama-era rules put in place to regulate coal ash and other industry pollutants.
North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper named Regan secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality in 2017. The Goldsboro native, who currently lives in Raleigh, previously served as the associate vice president of U.S. climate and energy and southeast regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund, where he led efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change and air pollution.
Hawley Truax, EDF’s current southeast regional director, said in a statement Thursday that the group under Regan’s leadership launched its “most ambitious clean energy and climate resilience plans.”
Regan also won praise from Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen, who said he “has dedicated his career to environmental work, advancing clean energy, fighting climate change, and addressing coal ash pollution.”
“We will do everything in our power to support and push Regan to repair the damage done by the Trump administration, take bold action on climate solutions, and genuinely address environmental injustice that has been allowed to go on too long,” Dillen said in a statement.
Prior to his work with the EDF, Regan worked in the EPA’s air quality and energy programs for the Clinton and Bush administrations.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in earth and environmental science from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically Black research university in Greensboro, and later earned a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University.
Earthjustice is one of several environmental groups that applauded Biden’s choice for EPA boss on Thursday.
The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters said Regan “has gone to bat for North Carolinians against polluters, and now the rest of the country will get to benefit from his leadership.”
“With Michael Regan, President-elect Joe Biden continues adding to his historically qualified and diverse Cabinet, replacing a fossil fuel industry puppet with an experienced EPA air quality scientist,” the group said.