June 22, 2024

EPA’s first Black male administrator says there’s ‘no time to waste’ on environmental justice

Michael Regan is wasting no time in the fight for environmental justice in his new role as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On March 11, Regan became the first Black man and second person of color to lead the EPA, according to the agency. Prior to this role, he served as the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, where he worked to address climate change and build a clean energy economy within the state.

“Throughout his career, he has been guided by a belief in forming consensus, fostering an open dialogue rooted in respect for science and the law, and an understanding that environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand in hand,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said of Regan.

During an interview in May on Planet Forward with host Frank Sesno, Regan emphasized the role of science when it comes to pursuing environmental justice.

“We have no time to waste,” Regan said. “So I’m spending time, taking time to listen to EPA’s dedicated career staff to be sure that we have all the details we need and ensure that the steps that we take are science-based, deliberate approaches before we jump into any rash actions.”

Regan went on to stress the urgency of current issues and said officials need to act quickly. In response to a question about the Trump administration rolling back regulations put forth by President Barack Obama‘s administration, Regan called the moves concerning.

“All of them are at the heart of President [Joe] Biden’s executive order to look at reevaluating all of those decisions,” Regan said.

“This is why it’s so important that science is at the heart of it, because we’ve got the scientific evidence and data that tells us what the right answers are, now it’s about operationalizing those correct answers, whether it be looking at methane from the oil and gas operations and their greenhouse gas contributions, or whether it be the contributions from cars and light trucks or mercury from power plants,” he said.

Press Secretary Psaki Holds Daily Briefing With EPA Administrator Regan
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan answers questions during the daily press briefing on June 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Early on in his administration, Biden signed an executive order on environmental justice to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad. 

Regan described the new changes that are playing a role in the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts, which include a newly established White House environmental justice and equity interagency committee. This initiative creates a direct advisory council to speak with the president about issues that communities are facing on the ground. He also spoke about new funding opportunities. 

Recently the EPA announced that it will be doling out up to $6 million dollars in grants as part of the American Recovery Plan, according to a press release. Another press release confirmed the distribution of $50 million dollars dedicated to communities in need.

“We know how important it is to put funding to work in environmentally overburdened, economically underserved areas, and today we’re excited to let our communities know that thanks to the American Rescue Plan, help is here,” said Regan, per the release. 

“EPA is drawing on its many years of experience working with communities and organizations that strive for environmental justice to ensure these funds will deliver real-world results for those who need it most.”  

Regan, a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, is the first EPA administrator to graduate from an HBCU. He does not take serving in this position lightly and he plans to continue making environmental justice a top priority.

“Climate change is back, science is back, here is the information, read it for yourself and come partner with me and help us solve this urgent climate crisis,” Regan said on Planet Forward.

To watch the full interview with Regan and Sesno, click here.

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