Meet the environmental "regulator" who hates science
In 2012, North Carolina’s newly elected Republican governor, Pat McCrory, announced the appointment of a businessman named John Skvarla to head the state’s environmental regulatory agency. For several reasons, the move worried environmentalists. Skvarla has expressed doubts about the science behind climate change and has peddled the obscure theory that crude oil is an infinite, renewable resource. He has insisted that the agency he now leads has been long regarded as the primary obstacle to economic growth in the state. Last summer he stated that if environmentalists were to get their way “we’d live in lean-tos and wear loincloths.”
Submitted by teddyrooseveltp... on Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:34am
The NY Times is out with an in-depth look at the change in culture at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, with administration officials forcing staffers to concentrate on "customer service", giving Duke Energy a slap on the wrist.
Amy Adams, a former supervisor who left the agency last year, said that the mantra of the current leadership was about “customer service,” but that did not include citizens who might live downstream from a polluter.
She and others said they were told to stop writing Notices of Violation to polluters, which can prompt fines, and instead to issue a Notice of Deficiency, which she likened to a state trooper giving a warning instead of a speeding ticket.
Current and former state regulators said the watchdog agency, once among the most aggressive in the Southeast, has been transformed under Gov. Pat McCrory into a weak sentry that plays down science, has abandoned its regulatory role and suffers from politicized decision-making.
State environmental regulators have told a superior court judge they may want to reinstate, and could expand, a controversial settlement with Duke Energy regarding the cleanup of two coal ash ponds in North Carolina.
That settlement came in for criticism from environmental groups following a Feb. 2 coal ash spill from a now-shuttered power plant on the Dan River. The spill has coated 70-miles of river-bed with some 30,000-to-40,000 tons of toxin-laced coal ash, according to the Duke Energy and observations the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources changed its position on a controversial reservoir project in Cleveland County, shortly before depositions were set to begin in a lawsuit against it.
That's right, after Bev Perdue's DENR consistently opposed an unnecessary reservoir that environmental groups call a "real estate scheme", Pat McCrony's DENR put the reservoir on a fast track.
Submitted by teddyrooseveltp... on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 11:23am
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow profiles some of the non-scientific beliefs of John Skvarla, Pat McCrory's man in charge of DENR.
Did you know that Creationists have this wacky theory that since the earth is only 6,000 years old that things like oil and natural gas aren't finite resources made from the remains of million year old plant material? And that Skvarla believes this nonsense?
If people in the McCrory administration had as much integrity as they do chutzpah, we'd be home free. But sad to say, it ain't so. Case in point? John Skvarla's comments about his oh-so-close partnering relationships with environmental organizations who are working to clean up all the messes made by Duke Energy.
John Skvarla, the secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said Wednesday that the Southern Environmental Law Center is a “partner” in DENR’s lawsuits aimed at protecting water against pollution documented at power plant sites owned by Duke Energy.
“We consider the citizens group to be on our side of the table,” Skvarla said during a news conference. Court transcripts paint a different picture.
Hearing notes: DENR secretary scolds press for not calling DENR. Later, a DENR deputy boasts of handling dozens of press calls. So confusing.
This is par for the course with the McCrory crowd. Lambast the press for not doing your job, point at somebody ... anybody ... else to blame for your institutional incompetence. And then hide behind a mask of free-market delusions while waving your hands frantically about being so terribly misunderstood.
When it comes to environmental stewardship and honest communications, John Skvarla and DENR are not just part of the problem, they are the goddamn problem. Their cozy relationship with Duke Energy is all the evidence you need about who's calling the shots these days. Here's hoping the federal grand jury will take these clowns to the cleaners.
Over the last year, environmental groups have tried three times to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke Energy to clear out leaky coal ash dumps like the one that ruptured last week, spewing enough toxic sludge into a North Carolina river to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools. Each time, they say, their efforts have been stymied by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The state agency has blocked the citizen lawsuits by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority under the federal act to take enforcement action. After negotiating with Duke, the state proposed settlements where the nation's largest electricity provider pays modest fines but is under no requirement to actually clean up its coal ash ponds.
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it had incorrectly reported that results of water samples taken Feb. 3 were within state standards for arsenic, a toxic heavy metal. In fact, the agency said, two samples exceeded the standard of 10 micrograms per liter. “We made an honest mistake while interpreting the results,’’ Tom Reeder, director of the agency’s Division of Water Resources, said in a statement Sunday afternoon.
This has been posted before, but just in case you haven't seen it yet, please find time to watch, especially if you consider yourself a leadership aficionado. I suppose a chief executive could give a talk more absurd than this, but it would be hard.
If you want to cut to Mr. Skvarla's special insights, jump ahead to the 10:30 mark, located here.
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