BOONE — N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan made a visit to Boone on Oct. 24, taking part in a trail ride as well as speaking to a class of recreation management students at the Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of Appalachian State University.
“We wanted to spend time with UNC-Asheville and Appalachian State, just talking with the younger generation about the responsibility and accountability of protecting our natural resources and (send) a message of optimism and where that partnership with state and local government and academia is,” Regan said.
Regan spoke of his background to the students of Tom Randolph’s environmental education class at ASU.
“He knows an awful lot about air quality, about climate change,” Randolph said in his introduction.
A graduate of N.C. A&T State University and a native North Carolinian, Regan previously served with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under presidents Bill Clinton awnd George W. Bush, going into the agency straight out of college.
“What I would suggest to you all is that the protection of natural resources and our planet is a bipartisan issue; it should not be made partisan,” Regan told the class. “I think we could work to have both political parties understand that and protect our planet.”
Saying he got frustrated with the bureaucracy of the federal government, Regan left the EPA and joined the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund as Southeast regional director. Regan said he was responsible for clean energy penetration in seven states, including North Carolina.
When Gov. Roy Cooper took office in 2017, Regan was appointed to his current position, which manages 2,000 people and seven offices across the state.
Regan said that his office is focused on clean energy for the entire state, reducing carbon produced in the electricity sector by 70 percent by 2030, and completely by 2050.
“We believe that this is the pace this state and this country must be on to hopefully save ourselves from a climate catastrophe,” Regan said.
Most of Regan’s appearance focused on how young people can make a difference and how businesses can make a difference.
“The power really lies in the vote and who’s in charge,” Regan said.
Prior to his talk to the students, Regan took part in a trail ride in Laurel Springs with New River Conservancy and Blue Ridge Conservancy.
“That trail ride was awesome, we got a chance to meander to look at water quality and look at the ecosystem and do it in a natural way,” Regan said.
Regan said that on Friday, Oct. 25, he was to talk to a number of wineries about climate change and job changes and what it means to the local economies. Blue Ridge Energy also hosted Regan on Oct. 25, taking him on the tour of one of the solar garden facilities in Caldwell County.