Michael Regan

WGL 2021-Michael Regan
Chip Somodevilla—Bloomberg/Getty Images
  • Title
  • Affiliation
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Regan made history in March when his Senate confirmation made him the first Black man ever to lead the EPA. But he’s also joining the Biden administration on the heels of a noteworthy environmental winning streak. In his prior job as the head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, he scored two highly consequential settlement victories in 2020. One requires the chemical giant DuPont de Nemours to clean up contamination it caused over several years of releasing PFAS—substances linked to cancer and reproductive and developmental problems—into the Cape Fear River (a toxic crisis Fortune wrote about in 2018). The other settlement commits utility Duke Energy to cleaning up more than 80 million tons of highly toxic coal ash.

Just as important as what Regan did in his home state is how he did it: In a state with a sharp partisan divide, he found allies on both sides of the aisle in working to counteract threats to the environment. He also has a track record of seeing business as a partner rather than a foe. One of Regan’s earlier professional stints, at the Environmental Defense Fund, involved placing MBA-student volunteers within companies to help them find energy savings. (He also helped expand the placement program, called the EDF Climate Corps, to public sector and nonprofit institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.)