Dogwood Alliance Statement on Michael Regan EPA confirmation hearings
This afternoon, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold confirmation hearings for North Carolina Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Michael Regan, to lead the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
While many environmental groups have enthusiastically supported his appointment, his leadership in NC on climate and environmental justice produced mixed results.
Regan has headed the NC DEQ since 2017. On the bright side, Regan played a lead role in the development of the state’s Clean Energy Plan pursuant to Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order on Climate Change. This work led to the state rejecting biomass energy as a false solution to climate change.
The plan states,
“Currently, the wood pellet industry does not contribute to NC’s energy generation portfolio and does not advance NC’s clean energy economy. The wood pellets harvested from NC increase the state’s carbon output during logging, processing, and transportation and are burned for fuel elsewhere, mostly Europe. There are currently no known plans for the industry to become a contributor to NC’s energy sector in the coming years.”
Regan also created the Environmental Justice and Equity Board. In Regan’s own words,
“Together we will protect our natural resources, our economic interests, and our communities so that ALL North Carolinians will have clean air and clean water for today, tomorrow, and future generations to come.”
Unfortunately, sufficient agency action did not back up these statements. Against a backdrop of strong local community and state-wide opposition, two new wood pellet facilities permitted and three more permits for expansions were issued during his tenure, with irreversible climate, forest, and human health impacts, all of which disproportionately affect low income, rural communities of color.
Had Regan’s actions matched his words, we would have had an outcome more favorable to the communities and forests of North Carolina.
Under Regan’s leadership, the wood pellet industry has rapidly expanded in our state. Over 60,000 acres are clearcut every year in the state for wood pellets. The resulting loss of forested wetlands and the increase in monoculture pine plantations pose a serious threat to our state’s resiliency to climate change. The forest products industry, including wood pellet production, is the third largest carbon emitter in the state, barely behind electricity and transportation. And every single wood pellet facility built in the state were sited in environmental justice-designated communities, increasing air pollution risks to local residents.
So now as Secretary Regan undergoes the confirmation process, it is important to remind him that actions speak louder than words.
We hope that if he is confirmed, he will say no to biomass as part of federal renewable criteria, put frontline communities at the forefront of regulatory decision-making, and stand up to industrial polluters that hope to continue destroying our forests to boost shareholder value.
We believe there are four pathways that Regan should aggressively follow in order to achieve this:
- Regulate biogenic carbon emissions and reject biomass as a path to reducing carbon emissions.
- Direct states to comply with their responsibilities under the Civil Rights Act to consider disproportionate impacts to environmental justice communities in issuing permits for wood pellet/biomass facilities.
- Improve the EPA’s annual GHG reporting by disclosing forest carbon emissions from forestry in accordance with the latest science and methodology.
- Strengthen Clean Water Act regulations, which contain massive loopholes for industrial forestry.