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DENR will remain vital under McCrory, new secretary says

Posted January 4, 2013

— Gov.-elect Pat McCrory told business leaders this week that one of his top priorities will be making environmental regulations more business friendly.

John Skvarla, chief executive officer of Restoration Systems, a company that rebuilds wetlands and helps them comply with federal laws, will help lead that effort as incoming secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He says the environment will be protected, but some advocates are concerned about the new secretary's views on key issues.

In the past two years, the Republican-led Legislature has made deep cuts to DENR's budget and powers, limiting its oversight abilities.

Still, Skvarla said Friday, the agency remains vital.

"We are not going to go backwards. We've got to maintain and enhance, and we need to do that in an environment that makes this an attractive place for economic growth," he said. "I don't think that's an unreasonable trade-off."

Some lawmakers want more cuts to environmental regulations, but Skvarla thinks changing the agency's attitude may be a better solution.

"Maybe with a more customer-service environment, regulations stay the same, and everybody's happy because they can work together to accomplish the same thing," he said.

Skvarla has experience in wetlands mitigation – a background some environmentalists like, but others are concerned about his positions on issues such as climate change.

"I think climate change is a science, and I believe science is constantly in need of scrutiny," Skvarla said.

Full interview with John Skvarla Web-only: John Skvarla interview

Skvarla said there's a diversity of opinion on climate change.

But Sierra Club's Dustin Chicural-Bayard says studies and surveys show a very clear consensus among scientists.

"We have a lot of world-class universities right here in North Carolina that are doing research and providing data that pretty much show climate change is, in fact, real," Chicural-Bayard said. "It's happening, and it's manmade."

DENR will also regulate fracking in North Carolina.

Skvarla says natural gas is a better investment right now than renewable technology. In fact, he's not sure fossil fuels are really a finite resource.

"The Russians, for instance, have always drilled oil as if it's a renewable resource, and so far, they haven't been proven wrong," Skvarla said. "There's a lot of different scientific opinion on that."

Chicural-Bayard says that's not true in mainstream science. He gives the incoming governor credit for a moderate environmental record.

"It's somewhat concerning to see one of his appointees make a comment that's so far out of the mainstream sentiment of most North Carolinians," Chicural-Bayard said. "It's concerning and surprising, but once again, we hope he keeps an open mind."

The most recent national polls show seven out of 10 Americans believe climate change is real.

WRAL News asked McCrory's office for his position on climate change but did not receive an answer as of Friday evening.

8 Comments

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  • goldenosprey Jan 7, 2:53 p.m.

    There is a much stronger correlation between those whose profit by millions and billions in fossil fuels and research that tends to cast doubt on the consensus of 98% of climate scientists. Let's put them on a scale - Multibillion dollar multinational corporations vs. a grant-funded scientists and the supposed desire of some environmentalist cabal to derail capitalism itself.
    Climate denial is nothing more than conservative/republican propaganda and the emperor is looking more naked every day.

  • slatesplace Jan 7, 2:14 p.m.

    I find there is a direct correlation between grant writing in the scientific community, and desire to tax on the government side, and the findings of global warming. Some simple touch points are: 1) There has been no global "warming" since 1996 and even that data was questionable. 2) The warmest periods we have been able to establish through tree ring study was during the renesance period (which pre-dates the industrial revolution).

    Bottom line, "man made" global warming is nothing more than liberal/progressive propaganda. There will always be global warming and colling (or climate change if you like). Much to the disatisfaction of the liberal/progressive movements, man has no control over this.

    It has made Al Gore a boat load of money though. He ironically just sold his failed Current TV to Al Jazeera in Quatar (which ironically is a county that survives off fossil fuel production.

  • goldenosprey Jan 7, 10:52 a.m.

    As if the bought and paid for schill of the coal burning power industry expects us to believe he'll take the environment seriously. Putting a climate change skeptic in charge of DENR is a bad sign. If you trust the environment with this administration/GA I have a Superfund site to sell you.

  • tracmister Jan 4, 7:48 p.m.

    The bottom line is that there are danger signs with the environment everywhere you look. All one needs to do is read reputable sources to realize that we are on a fine line before causing permanent damage that will cost millions. However, North Carolina elected them, we need to honor the commitment to business at the expense of the environment until a hard lesson is learned.

  • rhess2 Jan 4, 7:21 p.m.

    Who is Governor-elect McCrory kidding. The only environment he is going to protect is perhaps his own in the Governors Mansion. His election was businesses dream come true! With the help of the Republican controlled General Assembly DENR will likely not have enough funding to protect the environment in the buildings they operate out of. Make no mistake promoting business and industry in NC and protecting the environment in the State aren't necessarily compatible.

  • Bealzebub Jan 4, 7:02 p.m.

    OK His business of "wetlands restoration" which pockets him a lot of money is necessary. But he thinks oil is a infinite resource? Then he talks about "science". I hope voters correct this in the legislature next election.

  • hi_i_am_wade Jan 4, 6:56 p.m.

    "NO ENVIRONMENT----------NO ECONOMY words to live by."

    But who to trust? Someone who cries about oil money hurting his cause while he sells for his TV station to another TV station owned by people who got rich by oil money. Someone who tells us live sustainable while he flies around the country selling his book? Someone who refuses to comply with the Freedom of Information Act regarding his taxpayer funded scientific work? All of these apply to people who are pro-global warming. I'd trust a thief with my life savings before I trust an environmentalist with the truth.

  • bobbruck Jan 4, 6:45 p.m.

    NO ENVIRONMENT----------NO ECONOMY words to live by.