NC DENR

DENR doesn't want expanded water protections

And is suing the EPA to stop them from doing so:

DENR officials said in their lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in Georgia, that the new definition could expand the jurisdiction by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers over a significant portion of North Carolina. The move would stifle economic growth with little environmental benefit, they said.

"North Carolina’s water quality programs, many of which go beyond federal requirements, are a model for the nation and have contributed to the steady improvement of the quality of the state’s waters," DENR general counsel Sam Hayes said in a statement.

Really? I guess that's why the Jordan Lake Rules have yet to be implemented, making NC something like ten years late in taking positive steps to improve the impaired status of the reservoir. The bottom line is, when waters flow, they flow into our drinking water system. And since about 60% of our drinking water flows through intermittent streams and other "non-navigable" water systems, we either expand our quality control into those areas or continue to struggle to process enough potable water for our needs. And contrary to the scare tactics employed by ALEC and their agri-business cohorts, farm ponds will not be included in this expansion:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's cozy relationship with DENR

Be careful what questions you ask:

Holleman praises what has happened in South Carolina and says citizen lawsuits brought by the SELC have moved things along there. And he says, there’s another reason why it has not happened here: “The very, very close relationship between the regulator and Duke Energy.”

“That’s insane,” says Tom Reeder an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.”(What would) a career state employee have to gain by entering into some sort of special relationship with Duke? It’s very hurtful when you hear that, actually.”

The answer to your question is contained in the question itself. Thanks to McCrory's liberal use of the "fire at will" policy of exempting DENR supervisors from employment protections, keeping a "career" at DENR viable is now more about politics than professionalism:

GOP cherry-picking data to block wind energy projects

Skvarla's replacement carrying the banner for the fossil fuel industry:

North Carolina’s environment secretary has urged a federal agency not to sell wind energy leases within 24 miles of the state’s coast, a limit that advocates say would largely block wind farms.

Van der Vaart’s letter said the two zones near tourist-heavy Wilmington deserve similar protection. He said studies commissioned by New Jersey found significant declines in tourism when energy projects can be seen from shore.

Here is the study itself, with the relevant impacts to tourism data beginning on page 29. As you can see, their perusal of available literature on wind farms worldwide show minimal negative impacts to tourism, and some areas claiming a massive increase due to the visibility of wind farms. Additional specific (NJ) site polling and projections show a net gain in tourism dollars, but you have to actually finish reading the tourism section before you get to that conclusion. If this is the study to which Van der Vaart is referring, his comment and position reflect either a serious lack of scholarly capabilities, or an intentional desire to misuse data. Or maybe both. But no matter how you look at it, his qualifications as head of DENR are in question.

Mitch Gillespie is afraid of heights

Turns down Asheville job, skulks back to Legislature:

Until this month, Mitch Gillespie had been an assistant secretary overseeing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' regulatory divisions. Newly appointed DENR Secretary Don van der Vaart had tapped him to become DENR's first "director of regional outreach" in the Asheville regional office.

Instead, he will move back to the legislature to serve as Moore's senior policy adviser for the environment, natural resources, energy and regulatory reform.

I usually defer to environmental orgs who directly interact with state government, when it comes to their opinions about individuals they have to deal with. But I have to disagree with their assessment of Gillespie. He might be congenial, but he has already done massive damage to state protections for the environment, from peeling back regulations to slashing the budget of DENR by 40+%. With friends like that...

Coal Ash Wednesday: "But the bugs are doing just fine!"

The biological trump rule in action:

Aquatic insect communities in an area downstream from the Feb. 2 coal ash spill appear to be thriving, according to the results of testing conducted by state environmental officials.

Using a standard sampling protocol, state scientists collected samples of benthic macroinvertebrate at two locations – one upstream and one downstream of the site of Dan River spill. During the sampling, scientists collect insects and other invertebrates from the river using nets and then record the number and species present in their samples before returning the insects to the river. Scientists can determine much about the health of the river based on the number and type of living species they collect. The populations from the upstream and downstream sites were similar and were considered “Excellent,” which is the highest biological rating available.

This is good news, for one location out of a 70 mile stretch of river, that is. Some of that spilled coal ash is now buried under a few feet of silt, but some of it isn't. I won't go as far as to imply DENR testers located a healthy spot and tested that one, although that wouldn't surprise me. But one sample out of seventy miles doesn't a clean river make. Admittedly, I'm a little out of my depth here, but these folks aren't:

Polluters get a free pass with "Biological Trump" rule

Not unlike throwing a suspected witch into a river to see if she drowns:

Proposed revisions to state surface water quality standards, including the numbers the state uses to evaluate metals, have been approved by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission in response to the federally-required Triennial Review of Surface Water Quality Standards. Also included in approval of the recommendations made during this standards review are:

•Health protective water quality standards for 2,4-D, a widely used herbicide.
Updated aquatic life protective concentrations for arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium III, chromium VI, copper, lead, nickel, silver and zinc.
•Clarity on allowing site-specific standards to be developed when studies are done in accordance with guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bolding mine. I'm still perusing this massive document (1,000+ pages), but the gist of this "aquatic life" modification is to throw out previous toxicity levels and wait to see just how massive the fish-kills are after contamination:

Skvarla losing the Op-Ed battle over DENR-approved pollution

It's better to let someone think you're an idiot than clicking the "send" button and proving it:

The recent attack on The Fayetteville Observer's journalistic integrity by the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was unfounded. In a letter to the editor ("Coal-ash pond editorial challenged," Oct. 14), Secretary John Skvarla attempted to defend his agency's decision to allow pumping of contaminated water into North Carolina's rivers and lakes from Duke Energy's coal ash sites across the state without permits, controls and limits - or public disclosure and input.

Under Secretary Skvarla's leadership, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources touts customer service, and its actions indicate those customers served are the polluters, not the public. DENR and its secretary should instead direct their energies toward protecting our waters for the people and families of North Carolina.

Every time Skvarla tries to sell the public on the idea that he knows what he's doing, he just demonstrates more convincingly that he doesn't. I was going to say, "It's like struggling in quicksand." But it's more like seeing a patch of quicksand and just hopping in. Painfully stupid.

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