Laud’s appointment of African American man to lead the agency

By Glenn Townes
glenn.townes@njurbannews.com

In an interview on Thursday, former Republican New Jersey governor and head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Christine Todd Whitman slammed the Trump administration’s poor and inept handling of environmental issues. She lambasted the POTUS for ignoring science in combating environmental issues from safe drinking water and air quality to climate change.

Todd-Whitman sat at the helm as the governor of New Jersey between 1994 to 2001. She was head of the EPA between 2001 and 2003. She said President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Michael Regan to lead the EPA is a much needed and welcomed selection to revamp and revitalize the beleaguered and often maligned agency. If confirmed by the Senate, Regan would become the first African American to sit at the agency’s helm. “It’s not about his color as much as it is about his competence,” Todd-Whitman said in a virtual interview from her residence in Oldwick, NJ. “People need to see people that look like them in {powerful} positions and giving the message of what’s safe or what isn’t safe and what works and what doesn’t work.”

A frequent critic of President Donald Trump, Todd-Whitman, said one of the first things President-elect Biden has pledged to do is stop environmental regulations and rollbacks implemented by the Trump administration and restore the publics’ faith in science. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, Todd-Whitman said realities of scientific facts and data had been disparaged and dismissed—to the detriment of many Americans. “They ignored and denigrated the science from climate control to COVID..they ignored it and denigrated the science,” she said.

For Todd-Whitman, who faced tremendous backlash over her handling of environmental issues—specifically the air quality in the aftermath of 9/11, said a focus of the incoming EPA administration should be on a low income and disadvantaged environmental issues communities. For example, in September, Gov Phil Murphy signed off on legislation requiring the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate facilities’ ecological and public health impacts on mostly urban communities. To that end, environmentalists contend years of systemic and purposeful environmental racism has contributed to the unusually high rates of illnesses and death in communities of color. It has been widely reported in various studies and reports that people of color are more likely to live near toxic and polluted areas. An example of this is the disparity between diverse and mainstream communities is the on-going water crisis in Flint, MI. Legislators allowed the mostly minority community residents to unknowingly imbibe lead-based and toxic water for several years to save money. Dozens of people died or became seriously ill. The city and state were held liable and ordered to pay millions of dollars in fines and lawsuits.

Lastly, Regan is currently the head of the North Carolina department of environmental quality. He is an alum of a historically black college and university (HBCU)–North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Regan spent more than ten years at the federal EPA and managed a national program designated to address air quality matters. “He worked at the EPA while I was there, and he knows the EPA well,” Todd-Whitman said. “He knows the mission of the agency, which is to protect human health and the environment.”

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