CABINET HEARING: Michael Regan, Nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency 

February 3, 2021, Committee on Environment and Public Works

Questions from Senators touched on topics including the Green New Deal, climate change, PFAS limits, the renewable fuel standard, carbon capture technology, and environmental justice. 

ISSUES RAISED

  • Green New Deal – Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) asked Regan if he would sit down with members of the committee to talk through different aspects of the Green New Deal. Regan said he would pledge to move forward convening with the committee.
  • Climate Change – Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) raised the issue of climate change and asked Regan if he believes the U.S. needs to do more for the rest of the world. Regan said that question requires partnership and cannot be solved by regulation. He added that if the U.S. does not capture the market for green technology manufacturing and stay globally competitive, the U.S. will fall behind on climate change. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) asked if Regan believes that President Biden should circumvent the American public in declaring a climate emergency. Regan said he does believe that the U.S. and the entire world is facing a dire situation but does not negate that there is anxiety and fear for those that are losing their jobs. He said the Biden administration is tasked with not leaving any one community behind and is looking to add clean jobs. 
  • PFAS Limits – Regan committed to action on perfluorinated compounds (PFAS), a term used for “forever chemicals” found in industrial discharge. While there is bipartisan interest in the issue, the previous administration had not advanced regulation in that arena, and Congressional action had stalled. 
  • Renewable Fuel Standard – Senators from both parties asked Regan about the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets rules for biofuels. Sen. Barrasso encouraged Regan to grant more exemptions from the standard, while Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), both states with a heavy agriculture presence, encouraged Regan to refrain from offering those exemptions. Regan did not take a stance on the issue but pledged to review the issue closely. 
  • Carbon Capture Technology – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Regan for his perspective on carbon capture technology. Regan committed to look at and determine the commercial viability of carbon capture technology. Regan said there have been strides in technology advancements and the people at the EPA are ready to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Environmental Justice – Several Senators asked if Regan would make strengthening the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights a priority. Regan said environmental justice is near and dear to his heart and he plans to find the resources and establish an environmental justice advisor to the administrator, restructure the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights, and to communicate with the committee and ask for resources if the EPA needed them. 

TAKEAWAY

Few areas of the federal government will be impacted by the change in administration more than the EPA. President Biden has made no secret of his ambitions to tackle the issue of climate change, while that issue was not a priority in the previous administration.  

Regan’s hearing was a reflection of these distinct views. Republicans on the committee clearly do not share the perspective of the incoming administration, and their pointed questions underscored that fact. 

However, that disparate perspective does not mean that Regan’s confirmation is in doubt. Regan won praise from North Carolina’s Republican Senator, Thom Tillis, for his even-handed approach to his role in the North Carolina state government. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

We expect Regan to be confirmed. As with a number of nominations, further consideration of his nomination may be delayed by other business in the Senate, including impeachment proceedings. However, it does not appear there is sufficient opposition to block his confirmation.