In response to the May 24 Point of View “Funny how NC DEQ makes EPA both friend and foe”: I would like to describe how the state environmental department relies on sound science and the law when making decisions about protecting North Carolina’s environment.
DEQ recently determined that poultry operations such as Rose Acre Farms should be permitted by the state rather than by the federal government. This determination followed a decision by a federal judge, who found that the EPA misinterpreted the federal clean water law and overstepped its authority by requiring a federal permit for stormwater runoff from certain poultry and agricultural lands. By not filing an appeal, the EPA accepted the judge’s decision.
This is not the first time federal regulators have misinterpreted the clean water law. Most recently a court sided with the McCrory administration and 29 states by putting on hold the Waters of the United States rule, an act of federal overreach that would limit the ability of property owners to develop or work their land.
North Carolina already requires state nondischarge permits for water quality protection and manure management for animal operations. Rose Acre, for example, holds environmental permits that contain eight performance standards; 33 operating, maintenance and design standards; 25 compliance provisions; and 18 general conditions.
When the federal government devotes its vast resources to developing scientific standards, such as those for drinking water, the state environmental department will rely on its expertise. As an example, we rely on EPA’s standards for drinking water when no state standards exist, as does every other state in the nation. The federal drinking water standards, which have been heavily researched and vetted, are a clear definition of what constitutes safe drinking water.
When a court finds that the federal government has overstepped its bounds, it is North Carolina’s responsibility to step in and ensure that decisions about how to safeguard our environment are firmly rooted in the law. When the federal government develops scientifically sound standards, North Carolina will accept them as a means of protecting the environment and public health.
Assistant secretary, Environment at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.