A consensus builder for the EPA when some want a fighter

Governor Cooper said restoring morale among career staffers and emphasizing respect for science, “he would occupy an EPA, which the DEQ of North Carolina got four years ago.”

As difficult as it may be for Mr. Regan, he said: “He can fight when needed. Ask Duke Energy.”

Mr. Regan said, “Cleaned up the largest coal ash in the history of the country, and much pressure was needed to complete it.”

On issues to meet Republican resistance, such as emissions reductions from power plants and automobiles, Governor Cooper said, “He will take them and knows it is part of the fee.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in her online interview with Mr. Regan last month that she told him she felt neglected by the coal-dependent state during the Obama years. The administration adopted regulations to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“If you come and don’t listen, the air in the balloon becomes big and tight, and the pressure of being ignored increases and scorches,” Ms Capito said. Mr. Regan, she said, promised to “come and listen” – but also bypassed some of her specific questions about policy plans.

Raised in eastern North Carolina, Mr. Regan when he was called back to go fishing and hunting with his father and grandfather, he experienced that he shaped his love for the environment. Growing up with asthma, he said, industrial and heavily polluting factories and power plants also opened his eyes to the ways around poor areas and communities of color. President Biden has formed the core of his climate and environmental strategy on environmental justice.

Mr. Regan and Mr. Biden also share a personal tragedy: the death of a young child. Mr. Biden’s first wife and young daughter died in a car accident in 1972. Mr. Regan’s first son, Michael Stanley Regan Jr., better known as MJ, died when he was 14 months old when stage 4 neuroblastoma was diagnosed, a rare childhood cancer.

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