“He’s going to take over an EPA that is in the same position that he found the North Carolina DEQ four years ago,” said Governor Cooper. He credited Mr. Regan with restoring morale among career workers and emphasizing respect for science.

As to whether Mr. Regan can get tough, he said, “He can fight if he has to. Ask Duke Energy. “

Mr Regan, he said, “has carried out the largest cleanup of coal ash in the history of the country and it took a lot of pressure to do that.”

On issues that are sure to face Republican opposition, such as reducing emissions from power plants and automobiles, Governor Cooper said, “He will take them over and knows this is part of the indictment.”

West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said in her online interview with Mr. Regan last month that she told him her coal-dependent state felt ignored during the Obama years The government passed regulations to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“If you don’t come and listen, the air in the balloon gets bigger and tighter, and the pressure to be ignored grows and grows,” said Ms. Capito. Mr Regan, she said, had promised “to come and listen” – but also bypassed some of her specific questions about political plans.

Growing up in eastern North Carolina, when Mr. Regan was nominated, he remembered fishing and hunting with his father and grandfather. The experiences he said shaped his love for the environment. Growing up with asthma also opened his eyes to the way industrial and highly polluting factories and power plants live mostly in and near poor neighborhoods and color communities. President Biden has made the focus on environmental justice a central part of his climate and environmental strategy.

Mr. Regan and Mr. Biden also share a personal tragedy: the death of a young child. Mr Biden’s first wife and baby daughter died in a car accident in 1972. Mr. Regan’s first son, Michael Stanley Regan Jr., known as MJ, died when he was 14 months old after being diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, less common childhood cancer.