McCrory's DENR pick is conflicted as they come

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.


Another weird fracking connection

Skvarla is also on the Advisory Board for security firm G4S:

Mr. John Skvarla joined the Raleigh, N.C.-based environmental mitigation firm, Restoration Systems, LLC, in January 2005 and serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. His obligations are diverse in responsibility, but focused primarily on the sustainable growth of a business in an emerging and unique marketplace.

In recent years, Mr. Skvarla has served as a Managing Director of Duff and Phelps, a national investment banking firm, part owner of a North Carolina golf course community and also has as Chairman of Wilkinson Hi-Rise, a turn-around manufacturing/recycling company with national sales, with operating locations in Stowe Ohio, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago.

There's considerably more in his bio, but don't expect to see anything remotely connected to the environment. It ain't there, unless he took a course in slip-and-fall in law school.

Anyhoo, here's one of the things G4S is up to in Pennsylvania:

The company is looking to hire 200 agents to provide security services to CONSOL’s corporate headquarters in Cecil and at its natural gas well sites and mines, according to Jim Moran, general manager for southwestern Pennsylvania with G4S.

The CONSOL contract is the firm’s fourth foray into the energy sphere, something Moran has been pursuing for more than a year. Some gas and mine locations will be staffed around the clock, others during nonbusiness hours, and some will be monitored with motion detectors and cameras.

I know. This has absolutely no relevance to this discussion about Skvarla's competency as the State's environmental top-dog. I just find it interesting how these people show up on this or that Board or Commission. It makes me wonder, just what the hell does Skvarla advise them on? How to jump from one industry to the next, without twisting your ankle?

I just thought of something

Could this company actually sell those mitigation credits to the frackers before the damage is done? And by doing so, would it shield or indemnify drillers from paying for the damage they actually do bring about?

Don't get me wrong, the establishment of riparian buffers and other mitigation efforts are definitely needed in our state. But with a Republican Legislative/Executive and a (former?) credit-swapping mitigation banker in charge of DENR, I'm not sure how long the integrity of that program will survive. We could find ourselves in a situation where a little mitigation goes a long way, if you catch my drift...


Start a business that profits when people trash the environment, and then get appointed (and paid) to fill a cushy government job that allows people to trash the environment!