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US EPA nominee stresses environmental justice and PFAS control

Michael Regan wants to limit PFAS releases to air and water

by Cheryl Hogue
February 4, 2021


Credit: Brandon Bell/UPI/Newscom
Regan told a Senate committee that environmental protection is essential for economic growth.

Ensuring environmental justice and controlling releases of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are priorities for Michael S. Regan, President Joe Biden’s pick to run the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Regan said at his Feb. 3 confirmation hearing that he plans to “restructure” the EPA and place an environmental justice official in each of the agency’s regulatory offices—three focused separately on air, water, and land pollution plus one centered on chemical safety. He told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which held the hearing, that he would seek additional funding for these new positions and for an environmental justice adviser to the EPA administrator.

Regan also discussed PFAS, a group of environmentally persistent synthetic chemicals, some of which are highly toxic, that are commonly used for nonstick and water-repellant coatings. Since 2017, in his job leading the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Regan has grappled with PFAS-tainted drinking water affecting hundreds of thousands of people the state. He’s also overseen PFAS cleanup by chemical maker Chemours, the source of much of that pollution.

At the hearing, Regan said that in addition to setting limits on PFAS in drinking water, he wants the EPA to establish thresholds on allowable industrial releases of these chemicals.

“We need to have a full accounting of how these ‘forever chemicals’ are entering into our water as well as our air,” Regan told the committee. “We need to take a very strong look at the emissions that are coming from the combustion and incineration of products” and whether these processes send PFAS into the atmosphere.

Regan described his administrative style as convening and listening to those who will be affected by agency decisions. He said his regulatory decisions will hew to science, federal law, and market trends such as the expanding use of electric cars.

North Carolina’s senators, Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, who are not members of the committee, introduced Regan at the hearing. They endorsed him, saying Regan is highly qualified for the job as EPA chief.

The panel is expected to vote soon on Regan’s confirmation, which needs approval from the full Senate before Regan can assume the top job at the EPA.



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