Look, Happy Normal Thing! Let's Meet Joe Biden's Green Cabinet!
During the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden said the climate crisis was one of the four "major crises" he intended to take on in his presidency — the others are the pandemic, the economy, and the struggle for racial justice. As of this week, Biden rounded out his climate team with appointments to the EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and a brand new advisory position, "National Climate Advisor." Let's take a quick look at the new folks, as well as some of the other appointees we've been kvelling over already!
EPA Administrator: Michael Regan
For EPA administrator, Biden named Michael Regan, currently head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Regan will have a hell of a job to do just restoring the regulatory damage done by Donald Trump's two EPA chiefs, Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, who saw their mission as protecting not the environment but the fossil fuel industry.
Regan, who'll become the first Black person to head the EPA and who as far as we know is not related to Ronald Reagan's Treasury secretary but it's a small world so who knows, knows a thing or two about tough fights to protect the environment. He led negotiations that led to the cleanup of nasty poisonous chemical waste in the Cape Fear River, so that Robert DeNiro can safely stalk his lawyer's family. Regan also negotiated North Carolina's largest environmental settlement, winning an agreement for Duke Energy to clean up coal ash from power plants, a huge toxic threat to rivers.
He's also a veteran of the federal EPA, having served in the agency's air quality office during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, before taking a job with the Environmental Defense Fund and later going into business for himself as an environmental consultant. Just knowing he'll be helming the EPA improves our gas mileage (not intended to be a factual statement).
Chair, Council on Environmental Quality: Brenda Mallory
Photo: Stephanie Gross, Southern Environmental Law Center
Brenda Mallory, who has worked at EPA and was the general council for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) during the Obama administration, will now lead the council, which "oversees environmental reviews for virtually all major infrastructure projects, including pipelines and highways." She's expected to be a key player in implementing Biden's climate plan and his agenda for environmental justice. Here again, a lot of the job will be fixing what Trump's team broke, but also going well beyond just restoring the pre-Trump status quo. Under Obama, she helped in the creation of Bears Ears National Monument, one of two monuments in Utah Trump tried to shrink, so expect her to work with Biden's Interior Secretary-designate, Deb Haaland, to restore them.
Mallory currently directs regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, and her appointment is getting raves from greenies. She's already played a role in shaping Biden's environmental policy, as one of the leaders of the Climate 21 Project, which as we've said before, seems to have been named primarily for the purpose of trolling conspiracy theorists. That project laid out a roadmap for ways the Biden administration can incorporate decarbonization into every aspect of government, and now she'll be working in the White House with other Biden climate team members, like National Security Council special envoy for climate John Kerry, and Biden's other big pick for domestic climate policy Gina McCarthy, who is conveniently next on this list:
National Climate Advisor: Gina McCarthy
McCarthy, who served as EPA administrator under Obama, will be the domestic-policy version of John Kerry, though hopefully more careful on a bicycle. As head of the EPA, she oversaw the creation of the first national standards for reducing carbon emissions from power plants, Obama's "Clean Power Plan," which a federal court blocked from going into effect and was then thrown out by Trump in favor of the Let Them Eat Coal Dust Plan. She'll head a new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, aimed at getting all parts of the executive branch on the same page on climate instead of isolating climate policy in the EPA, NOAA, NASA, and other sciencey agencies.
On the whole, we're pretty jazzed about Biden's green team, which also includes Jennifer Granholm at Energy and Pete Buttigieg at Transportation. For the first time in years, it's starting to look like the US government is ready to do far more than just talk about getting to net zero carbon emissions in enough time to head off disaster.
Sure would help to have a Democratic Senate, okay Georgia?
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