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.

3 minute read

December 21, 2020, 10:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Congress

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.

Related in Planetizen:

Trump administration:

Thursday, December 17, 2020 in The Washington Post

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

51 minutes ago - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

2 hours ago - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

4 hours ago - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.