Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan says the agency can be expected to play a critical role in the Biden administration’s goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions but needs a financial boost to be in “fighting shape.”

Appearing Wednesday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Regan said the 21.3% budget increase proposed for his agency — a boost to $11.2 billion — will be necessary to add more staff and cover additional activities to implement the Biden administration's priorities.

“We’re hoping that we can recruit back many of the employees that we lost,” he said, referring to the more than 1,000 employees who left in the last four years. “This budget is a serious signal to the agency that we are being invested in and that we’re going to be given the tools we need to protect the environment, public health, and the economy.”

President Joe Biden has announced plans to cut GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 but has yet to roll out targets for specific sectors or pollutants.

Regan said the agency needed to fill existing job openings in the agency, but also said he planned to hire an environmental justice adviser to “aggregate all of the environmental justice and equity work within the agency under one roof. Not just environmental justice and equity, but also civil rights.”

On the issue of biofuels, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, pressed Regan on the administration’s views on the future of ethanol, expressing her concern about the fact that advanced biofuels are commonly the first technology referenced in conversations on the subject — not conventional corn ethanol.

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Regan said “there is no intent in terms of exclusion when we talk about the promising future of electric vehicles or when we talk about the promising future of advanced biofuels.

"The reality is as we talk about these promising futures, we have to deal with here and now, and a glide path to get to these promising futures,” he added. “What we know is ethanol plays a significant role in providing those resources here and now and will evolve as we start to look at the new futures for advanced biofuels and electric vehicles.”

Regan also said the agency is awaiting the ruling from the Supreme Court — which heard arguments Tuesday on the issue of Small Refinery Exemptions — and would grant biofuel mandate waivers based on that decision.

The agency is also working on tailpipe emissions regulations, Regan said, and aims to have a proposal released in mid-July.

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