Making money from environmental damage:
What Skvarla does not have is an extensive environmental background – until he joined Restoration Systems in 2005. The firm restores damaged waterways, and has pioneered in North Carolina the niche of “mitigation banking” – collecting credits for improving one site that can be used to offset development elsewhere.
I'm not going to get into a deep discussion about environmental offsets. Suffice it to say it can be a (net) benefit, but it can also mask environmental degradation while flying a "green" banner. But while these words might sing in the ears of a business-worshipping Republican, they are wildly inappropriate:
“We must strike a balance between our state’s economic development and its environment, and the environment will be protected,” Skvarla said. “More importantly, the integration of a strong environmental policy with a strong customer service and business development philosophy are not mutually exclusive.”
Actually, they are mutually exclusive, John. While the DENR should not unecessarily hinder business growth, it does not (and should not) have a mandate to spur said growth. And if you try to pressure your new (severely reduced) staff in that direction, you'll likely run afoul of numerous State and Federal laws.
Skvarla's not the only exec from this company to find himself in a position of authority:
Co-founder George Howard was appointed earlier this year to the state’s new board that will monitor fracking, and he was also appointed a trustee of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
It doesn't surprise me that nobody (unless I missed it) has made the connection between fracking and Restoration Systems. We don't peel our onions that much anymore, we just wait around until they begin to rot. But the conflict is definitely there:
The heart of wetland mitigation has traditionally been major highway projects, and that is expected to continue, but Danforth expects other projects are on the horizon.
“If you think about pipelines and power lines and the siting of renewable energy … mining, oil and shale gas — all have significant impacts,” he said.
Experts, meanwhile, predicted that demand for credits would rise because of shale drilling and pipeline building and construction projects funded by the 2009 federal stimulus. Applications for new mitigation banks began rolling into the Army Corps of Engineers, which handles Clean Water Act permitting for wetland projects.
Companies such as Resource Environmental Solutions of Baton Rouge, La., and Houston’s Mitigation Solutions are among companies actively pursuing the shale mitigation market. Restoration Systems sponsored the first bank in Pennsylvania targeting mostly gas-line construction associated with shale drilling, Howard said.
“There’s still plenty of growth in mitigation banking, even in a stagnant or declining economy,” Howard said.
And now you're sitting on the NC government-empanelled Board that will determine how the drilling will be done, while waiting impatiently for the damage to occur so you can start selling those mitigation credits. Pretty sweet deal, that.