Administrator Michael Regan, Remarks For Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) Summer Meeting, As Prepared for Delivery
July 14, 2021
Thank you, Pat, for that introduction. It’s great to see you again, and it’s great to be here with all of you.
When we last met, back in March, I was only a couple of weeks on the job. Now, we’re six months into the Biden-Harris Administration, and I recently marked my 100th day as EPA Administrator.
The months are flying by, and part of that is because we’ve really been laser-focused on getting our beloved agency back on track and making progress toward President Biden’s ambitious goals for EPA.
We’ve been heavily focused on climate change, environmental justice, water infrastructure. At the same time, we’ve also been working on rebalancing the federal and state relationship.
This is a top priority for me. I’ve been in your shoes. From my time in North Carolina, I understand firsthand how much more we can achieve when we have a successful partnership – we can create strong, durable policy that fundamentally improves people’s lives by working together.
That’s why over the last few months, I’ve been getting out of Washington, D.C. a bit more. I’ve always believed that the best way to make progress is to convene stakeholders where they live, where they work, and where they serve… so that’s what we’ve been busy doing.
I’ve visited Des Moines and St. Louis, Chicago and Baltimore. I’ve spent time in North Carolina. In North Dakota, I had the opportunity to make my first trip to Indian Country as Administrator. And just last week, I was in Michigan and Wisconsin, talking about the importance of climate-resilient infrastructure and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.
Along the way, I’ve met with several of you in person. In just the last few weeks, I’ve joined Liesl Clark, Ben Grumbles, and Preston Cole on their home turfs.
Nearly everywhere I’ve gone so far, there’s been telltale signs that we must take swift climate action – from a thousand-year flood in Southeast Michigan that’s taken a disproportionate toll on communities of color to historic droughts in Iowa that have undercut farmers’ livelihoods.
And, of course, our western states are right now reeling from dangerously high temperatures. With wildfire season upon us, many are facing drought and uncertain conditions. EPA’s work to support wildfire response and recovery efforts remains ongoing, and I want you to know you have a partner in EPA.
We recently updated EPA’s Climate Indicators resource, which provides the clear and compelling evidence that climate change is happening now, and it’s affecting the health and safety of communities across the country. There is no small town, big city, suburban or rural community that’s unaffected by climate change.
As state officials, you have a front row seat to the ways your fellow Ohioans, Mainers, Californians are being impacted by the climate crisis: heat waves, wildfires, more intense storms, increased use of pesticides given expanded lifespans and habitat of insects, and impacts of rising seas and storm surges on hazardous waste sites and critical infrastructure.
President Biden understands that we need to take urgent action to address this crisis head on, to protect Americans’ health and safety, and to reap the benefits that come with action.
When the President hears climate, he hears jobs – good-paying, union jobs in every community across America. That’s what the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework is all about. It makes a transformational $50 billion investment in climate resilience and a $55 billion investment in our nation’s water infrastructure.
It recognizes that we can put people to work building modern, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure, reenergizing our power sector, and spurring electric vehicle manufacturing.
We can make our places of learning heathier and safer for our kids by making school buildings more energy efficient and our school buses electric-powered instead of diesel-powered.
And we can deliver climate justice for the Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income communities who’ve long borne the burden of pollution.
For these reasons and more, EPA is moving with a sense of urgency on climate change.
The President issued an Executive Order that asked EPA to review all rules from the previous administration to ensure they’re consistent with science, adhere to the law, and protect public health and the climate. Where we believe those standards haven’t been met, we’re taking action to revise them.
EPA’s oil and natural gas regulations are at the top of the list of rules to be reviewed as part of the President’s Executive Order.
That order directs EPA to consider strengthening current standards for methane emissions from new, reconstructed, and modified sources by September 2021. It also instructs us to propose new standards and guidelines by September to address emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds from existing sources – something we haven’t done at the nationwide level before.
As we develop this proposal, we’re reaching out to hear from our partners, including all of you, about how best to reduce emissions, to encourage deployment of innovative technologies to measure methane, and to develop a rule that works well with existing state regulatory programs, like those in New Mexico and Colorado.
We’ve already proposed a rule to phase down HFCs in the United States by 85 percent, which will help keep global temperature rise in check. A global phasedown of these super-pollutants would avoid up to half-a-degree of global warming.
And as you know, EPA doesn’t currently have guidelines in place for states to limit greenhouse gases from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. We’re taking a fresh look at these emission guidelines, building on the lessons of our prior efforts in this area, and engaging with a broad range of parties.
When it comes to transportation, we want to leverage the innovation we’re seeing in this sector. While I was in Michigan, I had the opportunity to tour Ford’s facility and look at the future of how the F-150 Lightning will be produced. It was incredible to see up close the technology involved in that process, the environmental sustainability in terms of building the vehicle, and the recognition that what’s good for the environment and public health is also good for a company’s bottom line.
But Ford isn’t alone – they’re doing great work, and so are many others.
We want to reward automakers who are pushing the envelope to fight climate change by putting regulations in place that capture the innovation and courage that they’ve demonstrated, especially over the past four years. We need to have stringent emissions standards that establish a framework to continue to encourage this ingenuity – because it’s really about the evolution of technology and transportation and where we’re headed, together, as a nation.
So, that’s where our focus is. We took a major step toward restoring California’s authority to enforce stringent greenhouse gas pollution standards and zero emission mandates for new vehicles. We’re on track to issue a proposal to revise the previous administration’s standards for light-duty vehicles soon. And we’re looking at heavy duty vehicles as well.
We also want to complement all of this with what President Biden is working toward, which is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that puts $15 billion into electric vehicle infrastructure. We want to have a public private partnership that invests in the infrastructure that is ready to meet the moment for the products that Ford and others are putting out.
So, from EPA’s perspective, we want to cover it all. We want to set standards that, again, continue to spur the innovation that we’re seeing. And we want to empower and partner with our state co-regulators who’ve been leading on climate for years.
We’re just getting started. We’ve had a lot of groundwork to make up – and we have a long road ahead – but I’m proud of what we’ve already accomplished. And I’m excited about what we’re going to accomplish together for the people in your states in the coming days. Keeping an open line of communication, working hand in hand – that’s how we make progress, and that’s how this EPA is leading.