And Could Bring Environmental Justice Along

Being buried in what I can only describe as one of the more overwhelming times in my life, I have lost track of… things.  One “anchor” is listening to the 8:00 am morning news on the radio in the car on the way to dropping my older one off at school.  This morning, the news rolled over into an interview with Michael Regan, new who is the new head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). How did I miss this nomination? Totally embarrassing, because…        

Wow!  Science is returning to the EPA.  And bringing much-needed diversity along with it.  Administrator Regan is the first Black man and the second person of color to lead the EPA.  He was born and raised in North Carolina, is an alumni of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, and has a master’s degree in Public Administration from George Washington University.

“On his first day, Administrator Regan committed to working closely with and supporting EPA’s dedicated career public servants, restoring the role of science and transparency, addressing climate change, and prioritizing environmental justice.”  

EPA Press Release

Before his EPA nomination, he served as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).  While there, he was involved with negotiations for clean-up of coal ash and the Cape Fear River, which has been polluted by contaminants of emerging concern (really important, more on them in a future blog).  He established North Carolina’s first-ever Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory board, which assists the DEQ in “achieving and maintaining the fair and equal treatment and meaningful involvement of North Carolinians regardless of where they live, their race, religion or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Michael Regan is refreshing and, given his track record, exactly what is needed right now.  The previous blog explained Superfund and identified “Resetting the Course of the EPA,” a document compiled by the Environmental Protection Network, which describes itself as more than 500 bipartisan former EPA career employees and political appointees who served under multiple Democratic and Republican administrations.  The document outlines steps for EPA leadership to address significant and persistent threats to public health and our environment.  Some of the suggestions are: increase Superfund funding; complete where partial cleanup has taken place; increase process efficiency; strengthen the Superfund enforcement (track down site owners and hold accountable); and increase attention to contaminants of emerging concern.  More detail is in the document

The Environmental Protection Network is not the only group making suggestions. Look around and you’ll see plenty of commonly-voiced suggestions for the EPA.  One is to commit the agency to addressing the climate crisis. Another is to rebuild EPA’s staff.  And a very strongly voiced one is to revamp environmental enforcement to protect communities and advance environmental justice.  I believe this is one of the most important, highly-visible, and impactful issues for EPA.  Look back at a previous blog on infrastructure and underserved communities in the US.  

Based on Michael Regan’s track record and his experience with North Carolina’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory board, environmental justice is sure to be a priority on his agenda.  You go, Administrator Regan! 


“Vice President Kamala Harris, right, administers the ceremonial swearing-in of Michael Regan as EPA administrator… in Washington, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. With EPA Administrator Regan are his wife Melvina Thomas Regan, son Matthew Silas, 7. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta).”  Quote and photo from The North State Journal.