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Environment panel advances Regan nomination for EPA

Some GOP support in the committee vote for the North Carolina regulator bodes well for his eventual confirmation by the Senate

Sen. Shelly Moore Capito speaks with EPA nominee Michael Regan at his Feb. 3 confirmation hearing.
Sen. Shelly Moore Capito speaks with EPA nominee Michael Regan at his Feb. 3 confirmation hearing. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday advanced Michael Regan’s nomination to lead the EPA.

The bipartisan 14-6 vote bodes well for the nomination as it heads to the full Senate.

Environment and Public Works Chairman Thomas R. Carper said just before the vote that Regan has brought people together in his role as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

“He’s fully capable of doing that again as EPA administrator, working with all of us to address climate change and protect our air, our water, our natural resources, while helping to create good-paying jobs for the American people and strengthening our economy,” the Delaware Democrat said. “And he’s going to make sure that all of our communities and neighbors can be part of that progress.”

Regan would be the first Black man to lead the 50-year-old agency that will be at the heart of the Biden administration’s ambitious environmental agenda, including its efforts to address climate change.

[As oceans rise, Democrats put all hands on deck for climate change]

The committee’s 10 Democrats all voted in favor of the nomination, along with four Republican members. A couple of the GOP senators who voted against the nomination praised Regan himself but questioned how much authority he would have as administrator.

McCarthy anxiety

“As an individual, he is absolutely the type of person that I would like to see leading a federal agency,” said Environment and Public Works ranking member Shelley Moore Capito, who praised Regan as a thoughtful and forthright public servant.

But the West Virginia Republican criticized other members of the administration, including White House domestic climate change adviser Gina McCarthy, saying she feared they want to return to the kinds of regulations implemented under President Barack Obama such as the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States.

Those policies were intended to reduce the nation’s air and water pollution but prompted complaints from industry that they were overly burdensome.

Capito said that those types of regulations left deep economic scars in areas of her state and that she had to oppose Regan because he declined to rule out reinstating them. She also pointed to energy-related executive orders already being signed by Biden as evidence that the agenda will be set at the White House rather than the agency.

“I hope that if confirmed, he will stand up to those who work to implement policies that leave behind working families in energy-producing states like mine,” Capito said of Regan.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., responded to Capito after the vote, citing the deep economic pain that’s threatened by climate change.

“What we’re doing to this planet with carbon emissions portends permanent scarring of our oceans, permanent scarring of the fisheries that Rhode Islanders depend on, permanent scarring of our very coastline,” Whitehouse said.

Carper offered that he’s already had conversations with Capito and others about “doing something real” for job creation in particularly hard-hit states such as West Virginia, where he was born.

For starters, he cited the possibility of a multiday workshop in the near future to examine the issue.

“It’s very sad, if you go there, to see what has happened to the economy in the communities in which my sister and I were born and raised,” Carper said.

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