John Skvarla: Misleading attacks on DENR

September 16, 2013 

Misleading attacks on DENR

Your Aug. 29 editorial “A reckless law” and Sept. 4 editorial “Hanging ax” used hyperbole and conjecture in place of facts to attack Gov. Pat McCrory and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Chicken Little could not have done better herself.

In the latter piece, you attacked DENR for designating leadership positions as exempt from the state personnel act and misled residents trying to understand the important changes we are making to the way state government works. While more than 90 percent of N.C. workers are “at-will” employees, only 2 percent of state workers are, even after the recent designations. At DENR, 75 percent of managers and all nonmanagers will remain under the personnel act. Is that so extreme?

Much more than just regulators, DENR employees are a community of science dedicated to protecting the environment for all North Carolinians. They deserve good leadership, which is why we have elevated the managers with the most responsibility to exempt status.

Most people acknowledge we must have strong regulations to protect the well-being of our residents, the sanctity of our natural environment and the long-term strength of our economy. But unnecessary regulations that no longer serve the greater good should be eliminated. That’s precisely why the General Assembly enacted and McCrory signed House Bill 74. Any regulatory agency should enforce existing laws and also help determine when any have become overly burdensome or useless.

A good example is our review of requirements for vehicle emission inspections. A recent study by the state divisions of Air Quality and Motor Vehicles concluded that exempting cars and trucks from emissions tests in the first three model years could save consumers considerable money with negligible effects on air quality. While our review is not complete, this is the kind of change that might make sense.

By reviewing rules through the lens of scientific data and regulatory experience, we can make responsible choices that help residents without sacrificing the environment. Let us never forget that regulations cost real people real money and that when businesses are regulated unnecessarily it means fewer jobs.

Many say that the No. 1 impediment to business growth in North Carolina is environmental regulations that serve no common good and prevent responsible job-creating businesses from moving to our state or expanding. You stated that “North Carolina has a good business climate in large part because it has effective environmental laws and regulations.” I would ask that you look at our state’s recent unemployment figures. In January, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 9.5 percent. The figure stood at 8.9 percent in July – third worst in the nation.

I knew that changing the way government works wasn’t going to be easy, and both the governor and I expected to be attacked. But I have been surprised to be criticized for things we haven’t even done yet. Writing empty criticism is much easier than having to deal with facts.

John Skvarla

Secretary, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources


The length limit was waived to permit a fuller reponse to the editorials.

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