“He will take over an E.P.A. that is in the same position that he found North Carolina’s D.E.Q. four years ago,” Governor Cooper said, crediting Mr. Regan with restoring morale among career staff and emphasizing a respect for science.
As for whether Mr. Regan can get tough, he said: “He can fight when he needs to. Ask Duke Energy.”
Mr. Regan, he said, “pulled off the largest coal ash clean up in the history of the country, and it required a lot of pressure to get that done.”
On issues sure to meet Republican resistance, such as cutting emissions from power plants and automobiles, Governor Cooper said, “He will take them on and knows that is part of the charge.”
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 had told him her coal-dependent state felt ignored during the Obama years, as the administration adopted regulations to reduce the country’s dependency on fossil fuels.
“If you don’t come and listen, the air in the balloon gets bigger and tighter, and the pressure of being ignored just grows and foments,” Ms. Capito said. Mr. Regan, she said, had promised to “come and listen” — but also sidestepped some of her specific questions about policy plans.
Raised in Eastern North Carolina, Mr. Regan when he was nominated recalled fishing and hunting with his father and grandfather, experiences he said shaped his love for the environment. Growing up with asthma, he said, also opened his eyes to the ways that industrial and heavily polluting factories and power plants are overwhelmingly in and near poor neighborhoods and communities of color. President Biden has made a focus on environmental justice a core part of his climate and environmental strategy.
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., who was known as MJ, died when he was 14 months old after being diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.