President-elect Joseph R. Biden tapped North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and named Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico as his pick for interior secretary, as he moved Thursday to fill out the team tasked with implementing a far-reaching climate agenda.
Mr. Regan, a veteran of the EPA during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, is currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
If confirmed, he would be the first Black man to serve as EPA Administrator.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, North Carolina Democrat, swiftly endorsed Mr. Regan for the post on Thursday.
“As North Carolina’s chief environmental official, Secretary Regan has demonstrated he understands that climate change is a threat to human existence,” said Mr. Butterfield, a past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Ms. Haaland, a supporter of the “Green New Deal” economic makeover to combat climate change, would be the first Native American to serve as interior secretary.
Mr. Biden “put a true movement progressive in his Cabinet” with the Haaland pick, said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
During the campaign, Mr. Biden released a $2 trillion plan to combat climate change with a goal of moving the U.S. toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
He said he would not immediately ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a process known as fracking, though he does want to stop issuing new permits for fracking on federal land.
Mr. Biden also announced Thursday that former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is his pick to lead the Energy Department and Brenda Mallory, director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center, is his pick to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
He named Gina McCarthy, the former EPA chief during the Obama administration, as national climate advisor and head of the new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.Mr. Biden also named Ali Zaidi, a longtime adviser who helped negotiate the Obama-era Paris Climate Agreement, as deputy national climate advisor.
Though Ms. McCarthy is a familiar face for environmentalists, some groups have criticized her for prioritizing climate change at the expense of other initiatives like cleaning up contaminated sites through the EPA’s “Superfund” program.
“There were a lot of things that were ignored - people were pretty angry with her,” said Lois Gibbs, founder of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. “If it didn’t have anything to do with releasing into the air, affecting climate then she just didn’t pay attention to it.”
Ms. Gibbs predicted that Ms. McCarthy might be able to do less damage in the new climate-focused White House role than she would have if she was tapped to be EPA Administrator again.
“Keep her out of places where she has more than one thing that she has to pay attention to,” Ms. Gibbs said with a laugh.