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Changes to expect in environmental regulation with the incoming administration

President-elect Joe Biden ran on a platform that highlighted climate change and environmental regulation as national priorities. His plans state the intention to take the necessary steps to decrease our country’s emissions and in doing so prosecute anti-pollution cases more often and more severely. The team of environmental nominees he has assembled so far seems to align with these promises.

One major player will be Michael S. Regan, the President-elect’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan previously worked for the EPA as an air quality specialist for about a decade under both the Clinton and Bush administrations before being selected to head the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2017. As head of North Carolina’s DEQ, Regan has led negotiations that have resulted in some of the largest environmental clean-up projects the state has ever seen, including a multi-billion dollar settlement with Duke Energy for the cleanup of toxic coal ash. He has suggested that, should his nomination be confirmed, the EPA will not only focus on the effects emissions have on the environment, but also the effects of emissions on the communities located just beyond the fence line of emitting facilities.

The Department of Energy (DOE) will also play a huge role in shaping environmental policy, for which the President-elect has nominated Jennifer Granholm to lead. Granholm is most well- known for serving as the Governor of Michigan from 2003-2011, during which time she worked closely with the federal government to negotiate the bailout plan for General Motors, which is credited with saving approximately 1 million American jobs. As Governor, Granholm also focused efforts on electrifying the auto industry, something she has made clear will be a goal at the federal level should her nomination be confirmed.

Between the EPA and the DOE, we can expect to see more stringent emissions regulations across all sectors and will likely see an increase in enforcement of existing regulations that have previously not been regularly enforced. More specifically, the EPA is likely to increase its referrals of anti-pollution cases to the Department of Justice, targeting emitting facilities in close proximity to low-income communities and communities of color. Within the transportation sector, we can expect to see a clear path toward electrifying vehicles, likely including increasing vehicle emissions standards. These initiatives seem to be setting the stage for noticeable shift in environmental regulation and enforcement.

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