SELC op-ed: Rollbacks to protections for clean air, water by NCDEQ hurt us all
This weekend, SELC’s Derb Carter, Director of our North Carolina offices, clarified the history of environmental protection roll backs by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in a Faytetteville Observer op-ed, following claims made by the agency’s Secretary in the same forum. Below is an excerpt of the piece. Read the full op-ed here.
In 2011, the North Carolina legislature enacted a law requiring our state to have the weakest air and water quality protections in the country. Now our air and water only meet basic and minimum standards, the very same standards van der Vaart’s agency is attacking.
North Carolina has risen to third in the nation in solar energy, retired most of its dirty coal plants, and created thousands of new clean energy jobs in the process. Rather than continue to lead in the certain future of clean energy, Secretary van der Vaart’s agency sued EPA over its simple requirement that states develop Clean Power Plans.
The ironic thing is he even admits, based on the foresight and leadership of previous secretaries and agency officials, that North Carolina could easily meet the basic requirements for a Clean Power Plan. Chalk this one up to picking a symbolic fight with the U.S. government, while surrounding states begin to compete more aggressively on solar and renewable energy and attract the jobs these emerging industries will create. Not only is Secretary van der Vaart wasting taxpayer money, he is putting N.C. residents at risk of the impacts of climate change.
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has devoted its legal resources to picking fights with the U.S., and not to doing its own job. DEQ is charged with enforcing basic protections that keep our water and air clean. Over the past four years, enforcement of water quality permits has declined by almost 60 percent from actions taken by previous secretaries and their agencies. It should spend its legal resources doing its job and protecting our water and air rather than picking fights with EPA.
Four years ago, DEQ changed its mission to “customer service.” It quickly became apparent the customers it cares about are the polluters and not the people of North Carolina.