Michael Regan may have the most disgusting job in the administration of Joe Biden. Regan not only needs to confront the unfolding climate crisis cataclysm as Head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he has a traumatically shrinking institution that is yet reeling from Donald Trump’s chasm. He is also responsible for this task.“I was deeply concerned as I watched the previous administration,” Regan told the Guardian. “We all witnessed a mass exodus of scientists and qualified people the agency needs. I was really concerned coming into the job as to how morale would be and how much of a setback it would be to tackle the challenges before us.”
Trump pledged to reduce the Agency’s budget to ‘little bits’ and while Congress largely rejected its plan to slash wildly, the Environment Regulator is now the least employee since the mid-80s, when the population in the United States increased by almost one-third.
Scientists have been routinely disconnected, averaging three a week during Trump’s term fleeing the agency. «It was a kind of painful hell», said one official in his career, who weighed down, but decided to stay.
Many sources of anguish existed.Docens of environmental regulations were blocked by the trump EPA, including car and truck pollution limits and regulations designed to stop coal-fired plants from dumping toxins into rivers or the ban on a pesticide that is associated with brain damage in children. The Trump administration has been planning to conduct a television debate to determine that it was in existence, not only scrubbed out from the EPA’s website.
Various experts have been purged and replaced by industry representatives that seemed to take the lead by scientific panels. Regan’s predecessor Andrew Wheeler is a former lobbyist on coal, who says that “climate change action is simply a sign of virtue to foreign capitals.” Scott Pruitt (First EPO Chief), who took his position to get a job at Chick-fil-A, expenditure on foreign trip agency funds and even deploy people to get a cut-price mating mat from Trump’s Washington hotel, was embroiled in an extravagance of scandals, including living in an apartment paid by a lobbyist.
“It was incredibly frustrating,” is how Regan sums up watching the agency unravel. “I was incredibly frustrated.”
Regan, the first black man to lead the EPA in its half-century of existence, previously worked at the agency during Bill Clinton and George W Bush’s administrations. “I worked here for a decade and I knew the staff were not being utilized properly,” he said. “I know the people, I know the quality of work they can do.”
A good first impression has been made by Regan, who says his 44-year-old is charismatic and affable. Climate crisis mentioning in the EPO is no longer banned, experts are brought into decision-making and intertwined issues are no longer glossed over, such as the anti-racist protests that swept over the US last year. Peggy Shepard, a long-term campaigner in environmental justice and now an adviser to the White House, said Regan is “an intelligent guy knowing the problems.”
Even Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican senator who voted against his confirmation because she opposes Biden’s climate agenda, said she “really liked getting to know Michael Regan”. The new administrator is a “dedicated public servant and an honest man,” Capito acknowledged.
His statements are peppered into his promises to listen to and interact with “stakeholders.” “We can do the worst thing in our initial actions to be paternalistic,” he said.
But he is also aware of the unjust burden of pollution – growing up in East North Carolina, he has been hit by roads, hog farms and other polluting industries. In childhood, he needed an inhaler, part of a broader American experience in which black children were more likely than white children to be hospitalized with asthma. In general, color communities are much more likely to live next to pollution sources.
Later in life, Regan was to be the top environmental regulator in his home state, garnering praise for his work to clean up piles of toxic coal ash but also sometimes vexing environmentalists who wanted a more full-throated champion.
Emily Zucchino, a campaigner at Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina group that opposes chopping down forests for biomass energy, said Regan had a “mixed record” in the state, on the one hand creating a new environmental justice board but also handing out permits for new wood pellet operations. “Had Regan’s actions matched his words, we would have had an outcome more favorable to the communities and forests of North Carolina,” she said.
“During days of high ozone and high pollution I did suffer respiratory challenges,” he said. “I’ve been keenly aware of the impact of pollution from an early age and what that means, from lost school days or from preventing me enjoying the outdoors with my grandfather and father. That’s always been part of my knowledge base.”
It remains to be seen if the college approach of Regan will allow the EPA to address a series of challenges in the midst of the opposition of Republicans who took Biden’s climate ambitions as a labor killer. A crucial element of this crush is time, and it takes several years, probably through numerous legal struggles, not only will the climate crisis deteriorate remorselessly by day, but also a tranche of EPO rules to reduce planet-fired emissions, not to mention clean air-and-water edicts.
Regan appreciates the pressure. It is a pressure. “We certainly have a sense of responsibility. We will not deprive ourselves of our commitments,” he said. “To solve as many of this [climate change] problem as we can, as an agency, we will apply our legal powers. Yes, we have to revisit wrong decisions, but the aim is not to get back to neutrality. We lean in.” We lean in.”
New scientific integrity and environmental justice directives have already been issued, and improved requirements for vehicle emissions and methane leakage from oil and gas exploration are expected to be issued this summer.
After the courts struck down a Trump EPA attempt to weaken a previous Obama-era version, Regan said he thinks he has a “clean slate” to write a new pollution law that would limit emissions from coal-fired power plants. All of this, and much more, would be critical if the United States and the rest of the planet are to avoid catastrophic heat waves, floods, hurricanes, and other climate-related disasters.
“He does have a lot on his plate and with a lot of these things we’d want rules finalized by the fall of next year,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund who worked with Regan for eight years at the environmental group.
“He could well have the hardest job in the administration. It’s an enormous challenge, so it’s good that he’s so talented.”
Source: The Guardian