President-elect Joe Biden is set to name Michael Regan to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan is currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and his past experience includes earlier stints at EPA and the Environmental Defense Fund. He would be the first Black man to serve as EPA administrator.
Donald Trump and the industry allies he appointed to head this critical agency — Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler — harmed it through a series of air, water, pesticide, and chemical safety rollbacks. Pruitt and Wheeler also imposed damaging procedural rules on the agency that, if left in place, will make it next to impossible to use the best science to craft environmental protections — or to justify them in the first place. Adding insult to injury, the agency significantly accelerated the long-term trend of reducing enforcement of our nation's environmental laws.
The Biden administration and Regan must rebuild the agency, revoke Pruitt and Wheeler's damaging policies, and refocus EPA on proactive enforcement and just, equitable environmental protections that work for all people and the planet.
Here are five top priorities they can start on right away:
These priorities are an important starting place, but a raft of damaging policies and rollbacks also need attention. These include replacing the agency’s weakened methane rule, repealing the Trump administration’s rollback of an Obama-era policy to reduce power plant emissions, and replacing the administration's regulation hollowing out the Clean Water Rule, which has left streams, wetlands and other waters unprotected by federal law.
The Biden administration will likely be able to tackle aspects of its longer-term environmental agenda through lawsuit settlements, but other repairs require the EPA to set entirely new rules. This will be a lengthy process, but it can and should be done to deliver better health, a cleaner environment, and justice and equity for all.
Editor’s note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform’s Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR’s website.
Top image courtesy of North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Quality.