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EPA Administrator Michael Regan lays out agency’s plans

(WASHINGTON) — The Environmental Protection Agency announced last month that the water in Jackson, Mississippi, is now safe to drink, though agency administrator Michael Regan admits that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“The state and the city, the federal government, we’re all at the table with our sleeves rolled up looking for and identifying this path forward,” he told ABC News’ GMA3.

Regan joined GMA3 to talk about his visit to Jackson, his so-called “Journey to Justice” tour across the country and what climate action we can expect from the U.S. moving forward.

In addition to Jackson, Regan has also recently traveled to Egypt to participate in the COP27 conference on climate change, where the U.S. announced it would make significant efforts to curb methane emissions.

GMA3: Joining us now from Jackson, Mississippi, is the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan. Thank you so much for being with us. I know you’ve made several trips down there to Jackson. I believe this is your fourth trip. What is the latest information you can share about what’s happening there on the ground?

REGAN: Well, good afternoon and thank you for having me, Amy. You know, this is my fourth trip, and it was a great trip.

The purpose for being there was to host a roundtable, engaged with community members and give them an update on the fact that the state, the federal government and the city are at the table negotiating some near-term solutions that hopefully will be overseen by a federal court if we reach an agreement.

So we are optimistic about moving forward to secure some longer term stability for the drinking water here in Jackson.

GMA3: And I know you’ve been meeting with residents there in Jackson. You’ve been hearing their personal stories about how this has impacted their lives. Can you share some of them with us?

REGAN: Well, I was, you know, my second visit with Miss Ali Anderson yesterday. She invited me back to her home. She’s 98 years old, a lifelong resident of Jackson. And she just walked me through day in and day out what it’s like for her to try to lift these crates of bottled water and how to use bottled water to cook and brush your teeth.

And, you know, she’s extremely frustrated but very optimistic. And she gave me some really sage advice two trips ago, and that is ignore the politics on the ground and focus on solutions. And so that’s why I convened the governor and the mayor and the entire Mississippi delegation to think about how do we chart a path forward. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

GMA3: Is there a permanent solution available or known at this point?

REGAN: You know, we have a lot of options that are on the table. We are in confidential negotiations about how to continue that process. So I can’t go into too many details. But what I can say is I’m optimistic about the path that we’re charting forward and the state and the city, the federal government, we’re all at the table with our sleeves rolled up looking for and identifying this path forward.

GMA3: All right. And Michael, I know you’ve been traveling from Mississippi. You were in Egypt, I believe, just last week for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. And the U.S. made a big announcement regarding methane emissions. Tell us what that announcement was, how it affects all of us here in this country and why this is such a big deal.

REGAN: Well, you know, I was proud that the president announced a number of actions that we’re taking to combat methane, which is a really powerful greenhouse gas pollutant. And the EPA announced that, you know, we’re going to push out supplemental regulation, basically a technology standard that gives us the ability to reduce 87% of the methane coming out of existing facilities and new facilities by 2030.

This is a really big deal because it’s allowing us to leverage technology to reduce this powerful pollutant while also reducing the loss of the gas product itself. And so we partner with industry, we partner with the environmental community, you know, unions, environmental justice community. This is a win-win not only for technology and for reducing pollution, but also for public health. And we’re really excited about that announcement that the president made in Egypt.

GM3: And what is the hope that this will have in terms of impact on the environment, on climate change, by making this big change?

REGAN: Well, you know, the goal worldwide is for us to keep global warming from increasing 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe that this is a significant step forward to keep us on that path. You know, we have this saying keep 1.5 alive globally and the United States is doing its part. Again, methane is a very powerful pollutant. President Biden said from day one that America was back on the international stage and that we would lead. And he is walking the world through that vision with action and some of the actions that are being taken like this methane proposal. So we’re playing our part and we’re doing it well.

GMA3: I mentioned you’ve been traveling. You actually have legitimately been on a tour. You call it the ‘Journey to Justice’ tour going across the country. Tell us what the tour is and what you’ve learned and what the EPA is doing about getting some of that information from the people you’ve been speaking with.

REGAN: You know, thank you for asking that question. Our ‘Journey to Justice’ tour really is about getting from behind the desk in Washington, D.C., and traveling and meeting people where they are and hearing their stories. My tour started here in Jackson, Mississippi, and went through the Black Belt of the South.

But I’ve also been to Puerto Rico as well. And we’re looking to move to to take a trip to the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia soon. The goal is to really highlight the infrastructure needs, the lack of investment in many of our Black and brown and low-income and tribal communities.

And the reality is, is that we’re finally at a point where we have the resources at the federal level to match to many solutions that these communities have had for decades.

Thanks to the president’s leadership and to Congress, we have a number of historic pieces of legislation that finally give us billions of dollars that we could put into the hands of states, communities, nonprofits to really provide that path forward for clean air and clean water and environmental justice and equity for everyone in this country.

GMA3: Well you are certainly a very busy man. So we appreciate your time today. EPA Administrator Michael Regan, thank you so much.

REGAN: Hey, thank you for having me.

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