WASHINGTON – EPO Administrator Michael Regan, asked on Wednesday about the vacancy for the agency’s vacant regional top spot in Chicago, said on Wednesday, “We’re pushing as fast as we can” to fill the job, adding that he interviewed the two leading candidates for running the office earlier in the day and Tuesday.
When asked by the Chicago Sun-Times about a schedule for the occupation of the Region 5 office – with environmental oversight in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin – Regan said, “We are on an accelerated schedule. … I spent time with two top candidates this morning and yesterday and we will push them forward as soon as possible. “
Regan declined to name the two people interviewed.
The Sun-Times previously identified the two front-runners as Debra Shore, a commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District who is backed by most of the Illinois Democrats in Congress, and Micah Ragland, a utility manager in Michigan, who leads the Obama administration -Government helped respond to the drinking water crisis in Flint when he worked for the EPA. Ragland, a native of Flinter and backed by many Michigan Democratic lawmakers, would be the Chicago-based agency’s first regional administrator.
Ragland told the Sun-Times that he spoke to Regan on a video call Wednesday; Shore confirmed she had an interview with Regan in a video call on Tuesday.
When asked how fast ASAP is, Regan said, “I don’t have a specific schedule on how we manage the HR process, but we’re moving forward as quickly as possible.”
âLook, we know we need our regional administrators if we are to be successful in accelerating and implementing the president’s very ambitious agenda on climate, water quality, environmental justice and the like. So that’s our top priority. “
Regan was at the White House briefing to announce President Joe Biden’s pending bipartisan infrastructure deal, stressing that if it is passed – and the fate of the legislation is far from certain – funding could be provided to 400,000 senior service lines to replace in Chicago.
Shore and Ragland supporters have been lobbying the Biden White House.
In a letter in May, more than 50 black workers from the Midwestern EPA encouraged Regan to hire Ragland, which is also backed by the union that represents scientists, engineers, lawyers and other employees at the agency. Workers said Ragland was the best candidate to address a wide variety of environmental justice issues in the area.
Regan entered a high-profile struggle for environmental justice in Chicago in May when he asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot to conduct air pollution studies on the southeast side before deciding the fate of a permit for a controversial car destruction operation that residents reject.