North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders say the new requirement that Gov. Roy Cooper’s Cabinet picks be confirmed by the state Senate is about maintaining a democratic balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.
It is exactly the opposite. It’s a thwarting of the democratic process. For evidence, look no further than Cooper’s choice to serve as his secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, Michael Regan.
Under Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republicans did far more than change the name of the agency that was formerly called the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They changed its mission from protecting the environment and the public’s health to serving industry, either directly, or by lack of action. That change, no doubt, spurred many to vote for Cooper in hopes that he would restore the agency to its proper mission.
The choice of Regan signals that Cooper is serious about fulfilling that expectation. Regan is an outstanding choice with experience in advocacy for the environment at the Environmental Defense Fund and in government with 10 years at the Environmental Protection Agency. He is also a Goldsboro native and an African-American, a population that has been disproportionately affected by industrial and agricultural pollution.
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Republican senators may try to frustrate the change voters sought, but Cooper should stand by his DEQ Secretary. If Regan can’t be confirmed, the governor should find a way outside of the confirmation process in which Regan can use his experience and talent to protect North Carolina’s environment and its people.