WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Michael S. Regan, the former top environmental regulator for North Carolina, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and drive some of the Biden administration’s biggest climate and regulatory policies.
As administrator, Mr. Regan, who began his career at the E.P.A. and worked in environmental and renewable energy advocacy before becoming secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, will be tasked to rebuild an agency that lost thousands of employees under the Trump administration. Political appointees under Donald J. Trump spent the past four years unwinding dozens of clean air and water protections, while rolling back all of the Obama administration’s major climate rules.
Central to Mr. Regan’s mission will be putting forward aggressive new regulations to meet President Biden’s pledge of eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the electric power sector by 2035, significantly reducing emissions from automobiles and preparing the United States to emit no net carbon pollution by the middle of the century. Several proposed regulations are already being prepared, administration officials have said.
older, more seasoned Washington veterans already installed in key environmental positions — particularly Gina McCarthy, who formerly held Mr. Regan’s job and is the head of a new White House climate policy office.
Those potentially overlapping authorities have already provoked criticism from Republicans, some of whom voted against Mr. Regan’s confirmation because they said they did not know who is truly in charge of the administration’s climate and environment policy.
“I can’t support Secretary Regan when Gina McCarthy is the orchestra leader for the Biden administration,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia.
a consensus-builder who works well with lawmakers from both parties. North Carolina’s two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr voted to support his nomination. Even Senate Republicans who voted against him had kind words.
“I really liked meeting and getting to know Michael Regan,” Senator Capito said. “He is a dedicated public servant and an honest man.”
But Mr. Regan said he did intend to act aggressively in carrying out Mr. Biden’s agenda of fighting climate change.
Precisely what that will look like within the E.P.A., and particularly in the electricity sector, remains unclear, but administration officials have already hinted that they intend to create a new regulation to rein in the second largest source of United States emissions.