Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental Injustice
By Andrea Germanos
President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Michael Regan, the top environmental official in North Carolina, to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to multiple news reports Thursday.
The news drew a range of responses from environmental campaigners, including praise that the apparent choice means the rejection of California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, who faced pushback from progressives over alleged failings to communities on the front lines of dirty industry. Other green campaigners reacted to the possible nomination with a critical eye, pointing to what they see as Regan's "mixed record on environmental justice."
According to The Associated Press, Biden's choice of Regan "was confirmed Thursday by a person familiar with the selection process who was not authorized [to] the discuss the matter publicly before the official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity."
CNN, citing information from people familiar with the matter, reported that Regan would be formally announced as the pick on Saturday.
"Michael Regan will take the EPA's helm at perhaps the most critical moment in the agency's history, and he has to… https://t.co/LUVF4TrtAr— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1608236897.0
Regan, 44, has served as secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality since 2017. He previously worked for the federal EPA's air quality and energy programs during the Clinton and Bush administrations. If confirmed by the Senate, Regan would be the nation's second Black EPA administrator; Lisa Jackson, who served in the Obama administration, was the first.
As the Raleigh, North Carolina, News & Observer reported Tuesday:
Under Regan, DEQ created part of the state's Clean Energy Plan. It called for drastically reducing private sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and attaining carbon neutrality by 2050, as well as accelerating clean energy innovation to create economic opportunities in rural and urban parts of the state.
Earlier this year, Duke Energy agreed to the largest coal ash clean-up in U.S. history as part of a legal settlement with DEQ, one of highlights of Regan's tenure. Duke agreed to excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six sites.
His tenure at the state agency also included the 2018 establishment of the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board.
"If Regan is ultimately Biden's pick and is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will find himself in familiar political territory," Lisa Sorg wrote Wednesday at NC Policy Watch. She continued:
He would inherit an EPA that is struggling with challenges similar to those that faced the Department of Environmental Quality when he became secretary nearly four years ago: a decimated budget, demoralized staff, a previous leadership that favored industry over sound science, myriad regulatory rollbacks, and a politically divided legislative body that uses the purse strings as punishment.
While Regan drew accolades from some environmental groups quoted by Sorg, others suggested Regan hasn't taken on polluting industries forcefully enough. Sorg added:
"He's a great person but I don't think he's done enough for us on PFAS" — perfluorinated compounds — said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear. "I understand the agency is understaffed and underfunded. But the agency has made decisions unrelated to those things. We've fought so hard, but received so little."
She cited the consent order between DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch, and Chemours, which opponents of the agreement have noted, is weak. It specifically covers only contamination upstream, including private well owners near the Chemours plant in Cumberland and Bladen counties; downstream communities that are on public water systems in New Hanover and Brunswick counties feel excluded.
"There are a quarter-million people still exposed," Donovan said. "To see the state treat municipal ratepayers different than private well owners is not a good answer. They left municipalities on their own to fight our own battles."
Criticism for Regan's background extended beyond his action on PFAS.
According to the Revolving Door Project:
Regan supported the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite major opposition from environment, faith, justice, community, and Indigenous groups. His department also failed to respond to recommendations from the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board to halt the construction extension. He also allowed a major liquid natural gas facility to be built in the middle of Lumbee territory, the largest Indigenous tribe East of the Mississippi, and was accused of failing to initiate public discourse or government-to-government consultation before the facility was built.
Regan led a department that approved every permit application from the wood pellet industry in North Carolina despite the industry's massive deforestation problems and failed to resolve critical environmental issues related to hog waste disposal.
Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen, however, welcomed Regan as possible EPA chief, saying in a statement Thursday that he "has dedicated his career to environmental work, advancing clean energy, fighting climate change, and addressing coal ash pollution."
"As EPA administrator, Regan will play a key role in solving the climate crisis and protecting the health of all communities," she added. "We will do everything in our power to support and push Regan to repair the damage done by the Trump administration, take bold action on climate solutions, and genuinely address environmental injustice that has been allowed to go on too long."
BREAKING: Biden just tapped Michael Regan to head EPA — who has not had the best track record on environmental just… https://t.co/ATViRduodf— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1608231923.0
The choice was similarly applauded by Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power 2020, who called Regan "an outstanding choice by the Biden team" and said he possesses "an understanding of the bold climate action this moment requires."
Lisa Ramsden, Greenpeace senior climate campaigner, welcomed the choice as well, praising Biden for not going with the previous rumored pick of Nichols.
"Biden gave himself the chance to choose an EPA administrator who will prioritize justice for the communities most impacted by fossil-fueled pollution," said Ramsden, who urged Regan to "go well beyond simply reversing the Trump administration rollbacks" and to boldly "call out oil and gas corporations for the unjust impacts of their pollution."
"While leading the Department of Environmental Quality in North Carolina, Regan rightly pushed massive utility Duke Energy to clean up its toxic coal ash and fought Trump's offshore oil drilling plans. But he has a mixed record on environmental justice issues in the state, failing to protect communities from the health impacts of living near hog farms and approving multiple permits for the carbon-intensive wood pellet industry," she said.
"Going forward," said Ramsden, "Regan and the rest of the Biden-Harris administration need to pair their lofty rhetoric on environmental justice with consistent action."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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