Environmental Protection Agency Director Michael Regan understands the seriousness of environmental racism, and its impact on Black communities. Regan, the first Black man to lead the agency, described the work ahead of him in a recent interview.
“I was deeply concerned as I watched the previous administration,” Regan told The Guardian. “We all witnessed a mass exodus of scientists and qualified people the agency needs. I was really concerned coming into the job as to how morale would be and how much of a setback it would be to tackle the challenges before us.” Regan called the administration of President Joe Biden a “clean slate,” something that is particularly needed as the depth of the impact of environmental racism and the coronavirus pandemic is becoming understood.
The North Carolina native entered the director role with years of experience leading environmental efforts in his home state as the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality. His personal experiences with climate change informed the approach he took to his work and he quickly became known as a champion of environmental justice.
“During days of high ozone and high pollution I did suffer respiratory challenges,” he said in his interview with The Guardian. “I’ve been keenly aware of the impact of pollution from an early age and what that means, from lost school days or from preventing me enjoying the outdoors with my grandfather and father,” he shared. “That’s always been part of my knowledge base.”
In terms of addressing climate change, Regan said he and his team at the EPA “definitely feel the responsibility.”
“We aren’t going to shrink away from our obligations,” he said. “We are going to apply our statutory authority to solve as much of this program [climate change] as we can as an agency.”
He added, “Yes we have to revisit bad decisions, but the goal isn’t to get back to neutral: we have to make up for lost time. We are leaning in.”
Regan is a graduate of North Carolina A&T.
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