Northam Administration takes important step to improve DEQ

Today, Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler released to Governor Ralph Northam a report setting forth recommendations to improve the Department of Environmental Quality.  

Following the Governor’s Executive Order 6 in April 2018, the Northam administration undertook the difficult task of reviewing Virginia’s environmental programs to identify needed improvements. This review was especially important after years of budget cuts eroded DEQ’s ability to fulfill its mission. To help inform the recommendations, the administration held meetings with a variety of stakeholders, including representatives of the Southern Environmental Law Center and other conservation organizations.  

Today’s report, the product of this review process, contains many positive recommendations and provides a foundation to build on to better protect Virginia’s environment. The report also further outlines the Northam administration’s commitment to protect Virginia’s clean air, clean water, and public health from the rollback of national safeguards by the Trump administration.

“We are pleased to see many of the stakeholders’ recommendations make it into the report,” said Sarah Francisco, Director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Virginia Office. “We are excited to see the Commonwealth’s commitment to current health and environmental standards, regardless of risky rollbacks in DC. And we are eager to help the administration turn this report into real change that will improve the environment and public health for the benefit of all Virginians.”

“Going forward, it will be essential for DEQ to follow through on its new focus on public engagement and environmental justice,” said Sarah Francisco. “Our agencies can and must better inform, serve, and collaborate with affected citizens—particularly with communities that too often bear the burden of pollution.” 

The public release of the report is an important step that kicks off the next phase of the work, and securing full funding for DEQ will be critical for the agency to accomplish these goals.  “We look forward to working with Virginia officials and the public to flesh out these broad recommendations and ensure these improvements are expanded and implemented,” Francisco said.

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For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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