The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lawmakers approved Regan’s nomination by a 66-34 vote. Regan is the second African American to serve as EPA administrator after Lisa Jackson, who led the agency under then-President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013, and the first Black man to hold the role.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, were among the GOP lawmakers who voted against Regan’s confirmation.
Regan, 45, previously served as head of North Carolina’s environmental agency. Prior to that role, Regan worked in the EPA’s air quality and energy programs under the Clinton and Bush administrations.
In North Carolina, Regan developed a reputation as a fierce fighter against environmental pollution. Under his leadership, the state’s environmental agency prioritized efforts to address environmental pollution in low-income and minority communities most impacted by its effects.
The agency also set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 70% by 2030 and attaining carbon neutrality by 2050.
As EPA administrator, Regan will play a key role in Biden’s hotly debated plan to combat climate change. The president’s energy plan calls for the U.S. to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and gradually phase out the use of fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy.
Biden’s approach has roiled GOP lawmakers, as well as some Democrats in New Mexico and other states with economies closely tied to the energy sector. Critics have warned that Biden’s initial policies, such as an end to new fracking permits on federal land and the cancellation of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, will kill thousands of jobs and hurt state economies already contending with the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, a coalition of 12 Republican state attorneys general sued the Biden administration to halt the president’s day-one executive order calling on federal officials to determine the “social cost” of greenhouse gases.
In a Senate confirmation hearing last month, Regan pledged to work with states on concerns related to Biden’s energy plan.
“We all understand the anxiety and the fear as we make this transition that folks in your states have,” Regan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.