Regan Rescues Science, Puts Protection Back on the Docket at EPA

Regan in his confirmation hearing      Photo: screenshot,

The newly-confirmed EPA Administrator Michael Regan did a round of interviews yesterday with The NYT, Vox, The Washington Post, and even Rolling Stone.  He told The Times his immediate priorities are rebuilding agency morale, restoring the role of science — and scientists — in developing air and water rules, and ensuring environmental justice for communities that have borne the brunt of pollution.  His “hear all sides” approach and commitment to work with states, won him bipartisan support in his confirmation process in Washington.  The first action of the gate — a rule that aims to reduce smog pollution from 12 states that can cross state lines marring air quality for their neighbors.

Why This Matters: EPA — like many environmental agencies — has had to make do with less for a long while. As Vox pointed out, “EPA’s budget under Ronald Reagan was 50 percent higher in inflation-adjusted dollars than it is today. Staffing has declined 22 percent since 1999 and more losses may be coming soon. About one-third of EPA scientists are now eligible to retire.”  So the agency needs rebuilding, but the public is very supportive of its basic mission to ensure all Americans can enjoy clean air, clean lakes and rivers, and a healthy environment as well as addressing climate change.

Best Bits From the Interviews

The NYT: On environmental justice, Regan told Lisa Friedman that “he intends to appoint an environmental justice adviser to revamp the agency’s approach to civil rights and help develop deeper relationships with communities that most closely experience the burdens of pollution and impacts of climate change. ‘That’s going to be a significant priority,’ he said.’

The WaPo: On rebuilding the staff, Regan told Brady Dennis and Dino Grandoni that “he wouldn’t rule out the return of experts who fled the EPA as part of a hiring push under Biden. ‘I’m under the assumption that there are a lot of people that walked out of EPA that would be extremely qualified for some of the positions we’ve advertised, and we welcome their return if they meet the criteria,’ he said. ‘But that doesn’t exclude new and young scientists and engineers and data analysts and lawyers who have been longing to join a credible agency.’”

Rolling Stone: Regan determined that “a top-down approach wasn’t the best way to make the changes the climate crisis demands. ‘We’re not going to regulate our way out of this,’ he says. “It really is: ‘How do we look at it in a holistic way?’ There are multiple ways to do things, and you can find win-win opportunities. And typically those opportunities or solutions last the longest.”

To Go Deeper:  Read Andy Kroll’s Rolling Stone story on Regan here.

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