John E. Skvarla: New DENR ‘a customer-friendly juggernaut’

December 18, 2013 

The News & Observer made a surprising decision when it chose to print a Point of View piece by a former Department of Environment and Natural Resources employee on Dec. 16 (“Why I left my DENR job: conscience”). The decision was remarkable considering that once readers plodded through nearly 700 words of emotion, hyperbole and conjecture, a total of one fact remained. This is progress! That sole fact crushes this paper’s previous record of avoiding facts altogether when attacking the agency.

Alas, the one fact (that the Division of Water Resources has seen a 24 percent staffing reduction since 2011) is highly misleading, since many of those cuts were vacant positions. Does The News & Observer think that keeping nonexistent workers on the books protects the environment?

I am glad Amy Adams will now have the opportunity to learn what it is like to make it in the private sector. Appalachian Voices, her new employer, saw more than a 15 percent drop in revenue from 2011 to 2012. Apparently its recovery plan includes portraying the General Assembly and DENR leadership as villains to stimulate donations.

As for me personally, I would like to know where Adams heard that I said “making environmental regulations more business friendly” is a priority. I don’t believe I have ever said that. For the most part, DENR does not make regulations, we enforce them.

Perhaps she is confused, since what I have said time and again is that environmental regulators – DENR employees – needed to be more process friendly. How does it help the environment if it takes 18 months for an applicant to secure a lawful permit versus 60 days? Most DENR employees understand and have embraced that distinction. That is why we have been able to turn DENR from North Carolina’s No. 1 obstacle of resistance into a customer-friendly juggernaut in such a short time.

People in the private sector pour their hearts and souls into their work; instead of crushing their dreams, they now have a state government that treats them as partners.

John E. Skvarla III

Secretary N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Raleigh

The length limit was waived for a fuller response.

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