In President-elect Biden’s campaign, he promised that he would make climate change and environmental protections a top priority. It was planned early on that whoever he wound up choosing to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be a major voice in his administration.

The EPA is responsible for regulating pollution from vehicles, industry, and energy, and for tracking and studying the ongoing state of U.S. emissions.

During President Trump’s administration, over 130 regulations about industry emissions and monitoring were either relaxed or dissolved, a trend that environmental scientists referred to as an all-out-war against environmental protections. The U.S. also pulled out the Paris climate accord, which we helped broker, and ceased progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Biden’s new appointee for head of the EPA, Michael Regan, is stepping into something of a firestorm.

“Regan will take the EPA’s helm at perhaps the most critical moment in the agency’s history,” Kierán Suckling of the anti-pollution group Center for Biological Diversity wrote in an email.

But he appears to already be on track. As environment secretary for North Carolina, Regan helped broker a plan to reduce power plant emissions in the state by 70% before 2030, and he sees a future in which that goal spreads nationwide. And he has worked within the EPA for the last several years.

“We need a partnership to be established, a very strong partnership with state and local governments as well as the private sector, to chart these goals,” Regan said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve lost four years.”

As the first-ever black head of the EPA, Regan is also keenly aware of the racial disparity of the impact of ecological damage, another important matter that needs to be addressed.

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