Biden Diversifies Cabinet With EPA Administrator, Interior Secretary Picks

President-elect Biden made two historic cabinet selections: Michael Regan, who heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, to run the U.S. EPA, and Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, to head the Interior Department.

December 21, 2020, 10:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


vasilis asvestas / Shutterstock

"President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Michael S. Regan, who heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator," report Brady DennisSteven Mufson, and Juliet Eilperin for The Washington Post on Dec. 17.

Regan, 44, would be the first Black man to run the EPA.

Regan has served as North Carolina’s top environmental official since early 2017, when Gov. Roy Cooper (D) named him to his role. During that time, he forged a tough multibillion-dollar settlement over a coal ash cleanup with Duke Energy, established an environmental justice advisory board and reached across the political divide to work with the state’s Republican legislature.

In fact, it was that deal, along with Regan's work with disadvantaged communities, is what led to his selection, add Dennis, Mufson, and Eilperin.

“Right away he prioritized climate change, environmental justice and coal ash cleanup,” said Cassie Gavin, the Sierra Club’s director of government relations for North Carolina.

Michael Brune, the director of Sierra Club, added his endorsement in a press release:

Joe Biden ran on the boldest, strongest climate policy -- one that centers climate justice -- in history. As he continues to build his cabinet, perhaps no pick thus far emphasizes this focus as much as Michael Regan. 

"Since North Carolina’s governor is a Democrat but the legislature is controlled by Republicans, Regan has been forced to work with a divided state government — experience that could come in handy in a bitterly split Washington," add the Post reporters.

Department of Interior

Separately, Dino GrandoniDennis, and Eilperin report that "Biden chose Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) Thursday to serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary and head the Interior Department, a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples."

In selecting 60-year-old Haaland, a member of Pueblo of Laguna, Biden has placed the descendant of the original people to populate North America atop a 171-year-old institution that has often had a fraught relationship with the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes.

Rep. Haaland was just reelected to what would be her second term. She won the open seat left by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) in 2018 who successfully ran for governor of New Mexico. Gov. Lujan Grisham had reportedly been offered the Interior position but turned it down.

With the selection of Haaland and Regan, "Biden sent a clear message that top officials charged with confronting the nation’s environmental problems will have a shared experience with the Americans who have disproportionately been affected by toxic air and polluted land," add Grandoni, Dennis and Eilperin.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted Thursday night. “ ... I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”

The last word goes to show what Haaland, if confirmed, will no doubt have to deal with on a regular basis.

In a sign of the opposition the administration will soon face, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association issued a statement noting drilling on federal land generates $800 million annually for the state’s government. “We hope Rep. Haaland will employ a balanced approach that considers the needs of all who depend on public lands, including the thousands of men and women and families whose livelihoods depend on access to public lands for resource development,” the group said.

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