John E. Skvarla: DENR's grant refusal a win for NC

October 1, 2013 

DENR’s grant refusal a win for N.C.

Your Sept. 26 editorial “Grants tossed” was another sky-is-falling editorial over the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. When DENR’s Division of Water Resources declined federal grant money to study the quality of surface water in the Deep River basin, some (the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, among others) asked for more information on that decision. Others (you, among others) rushed to judgment without bothering to gather facts.

DENR’s refusal of the grant will allow baseline water quality testing to be conducted in the right way, at the right places, with the right agencies involved. The EPA grant would have started sampling in early 2014 – too soon, assuming you want to establish a baseline prior to hydraulic fracturing. It would have sampled wetlands and streams chosen more or less at random – but by waiting until leasing units are known, we can target the samples close to where hydraulic fracturing will occur. It would have sampled only surface water – we need both surface and groundwater sampling to accurately tell us whether drilling is harming the water supply.

And it would do all this without any coordination with the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, the N.C. Division of Energy, Mining and Land Resources or the General Assembly.

Is the mere act of collecting data useful? Perhaps if you are a graduate student who needs to practice your technique. But collecting data with little thought to its use is not a good use of taxpayer resources and does nothing to protect the environment. Now that we have returned this grant, we can perform these extremely important studies when, where and how they need to be performed. No jobs eliminated, no waste of resources, no piece of the sky has fallen. Chalk one up for both the environment and the taxpayers.

John E. Skvarla

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

Raleigh

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the editorial.

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