WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency told lawmakers on Wednesday he will consult with states and other stakeholders as the agency determines how to deliver on the administration’s plans to tackle climate change and clean up pollution hotspots.
The comments came during an unusually cordial Senate confirmation hearing for the nation’s top environmental regulator, a nomination that has historically triggered fierce debate between Republicans and Democrats over how to balance U.S. green regulation with economic development.
“We all understand the anxiety and the fear as we make this transition that folks in your states have,” said Michael Regan, 44, referring to Biden’s plan to shift the country toward cleaner energy sources to combat global warming.
Regan is the former head of North Carolina’s environmental regulator, where he earned a reputation as a consensus builder, and would be the first Black man to lead the EPA if confirmed by the Senate.
Republicans have said they are worried a rapid shift away from fossil fuels would kill jobs and stunt economic growth in the world’s top producer of oil and gas and have already criticized some of Biden’s early moves like canceling the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, and pausing new leases for oil drilling on federal land.
But Regan did not face contentious exchanges at the hearing and appears poised for an easy confirmation.
He was introduced by North Carolina’s two Republican senators who endorsed him and praised his “fair” and bipartisan work in North Carolina, where he oversaw a settlement with Duke Energy Corp for the nation’s largest clean-up of coal ash.
Regan tried to assure lawmakers during the questioning that the transition to a clean energy economy laid out by Biden will benefit the entire country, creating jobs while reducing climate risks and pollution.