As the new secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality, I want our residents to understand we take seriously the concerns outlined in The News & Observer’s Jan. 18 news article “EPA faults N.C. over health of residents near hog farms.” The article discussed a Jan. 12 letter the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office sent to DEQ about the federal agency’s investigation over concerns the state hasn’t done enough to protect minorities and poor residents from the effects of hog farms.
Let me start by saying we take seriously our legal and moral obligation to protect the environment as well as the health and well-being of all North Carolina residents. While the Cooper administration was not involved in these issues or the investigation that dates back to 2014, we will take this opportunity to thoroughly explore this matter with an open mind and a fresh set of eyes.
Our goal will be to arrive at a solution that takes into account the law and the points of view of all involved parties, as we continue to put the highest priority on protecting the environment and peoples’ health.
On Jan. 13, we responded to the EPA’s letter and assured them we would start working on these issues right away. As such, I have started meeting with staff in my agency most familiar with our regulation of the hog farming industry and with EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office.
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I want the opportunity to gather sufficient information to take the most appropriate steps moving forward. When faced with significant challenges, the most meaningful improvements will come about only after all stakeholders have had an opportunity to be heard.
Michael S. Regan
Secretary, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the article.