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Protecting the Environment is Back at EPA

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Fishermen at Amelia Island, FL. Photo by Bob Gatty

Finally, the attack against our environment has ended as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, has now taken over, determined to meet the agency's actual mission of protecting our environment.

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That, of course, is in stark contrast to the EPA under Donald Trump, which focused its efforts on undoing previous advances in combatting pollution and improving air and water quality, all for the benefit of polluters under the guise of undoing overly burdensome government regulations.

It was so bad at EPA under Trump that almost 1,600 workers quit, while less than 400 were hired -- and that was only during the first 18 months of Trump's disastrous presidency.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan

All of this is put into perspective in an exclusive interview with Regan by The Washington Post 's Brady Dennis and Dino Grandoni. They write that the first thing that Regan must do is "help the EPA get its groove back."

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, starting with rebuilding the staff morale and getting all of our staff back to feeling as if they matter, their voices matter,” Regan said. “We really have to restore the scientific integrity and the utilization of data, of facts, as we move forward and make some very important decisions.”

Regan, a former EPA employee who served as southeast regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund and then as the North Carolina Secretary of Environmental Quality, made this flat statement:

"Science is back at EPA."

That is great news for those of us who care about our environment, about fighting climate change, about protecting the water that we drink and the air that we breath.

Regan told The Post's reporters that the EPA will revisit the Trump administration's rollback of tailpipe emissions rules for new cars and trucks -- an action that even the automobile industry opposed. He also plans to take a look at Trump's attempt to revoke California's authority to set its own fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, a waiver that had been granted under the Clean Air Act by previous administrations.

The new administrator said a federal court's decision to vacate the Trump administration's replacement of the Clean Power Plan, established during the Obama administration, now allows the agency to regulate climate-warming pollutants from burning coal and gas for electricity.

He also indicated in the interview that he's open to toughening air quality standards for ozone and other pollutants.

“We’re taking a look at how we enhance some decisions that we believe are not as protective as we think they should be,” he said.

Regan, who was easily confirmed by the Senate, was sworn in as the 16th EPA administrator on March 11, becoming the first Black man and second person of color to lead the agency.

According to the EPA, the Goldsboro, NC native developed a passion for the environment while hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather, and exploring the lands, waters, and inner Coastal Plain of North Carolina.

"Throughout his career, he has been guided by a belief in forming consensus, fostering an open dialogue rooted in respect for science and the law, and an understanding that environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand in hand," the EPA's website says.

The bottom line is this: The days of diminishing the importance of science in the decision-making process are over at the EPA, as are the days of simply taking actions for the benefit of powerful corporate interests, the environment be damned.

That means we can all breath much more easily, knowing that the agency established by Congress to protect our environment will actually do that.


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