McCrory names new head for environmental agency

Posted December 23, 2014

— Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday named Don van der Vaart, a deputy secretary who teaches engineering at North Carolina State University, to head the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Van der Vaart succeeds John Skvrala, who is moving to take over as Department of Commerce secretary at the end of the year. 

"Van der Vaart’s scientific and academic credentials alone are remarkable, but he also has the real-world experience to ensure that North Carolina continues to implement common-sense solutions based on science," McCrory said in a statement.

After working for years in DENR's air quality section, van der Vaart recently became a deputy secretary and the department's energy policy adviser.

"I am privileged to take on this role after serving the department in various capacities over the past 20 years," van der Vaart said in a statement. "I will focus on DENR’s core mission of environmental protection and augmenting our citizens’ understanding of our state’s abundant and unique natural resources."

He holds a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge, a law degree from North Carolina Central University and a master's degree in chemical engineering from N.C. State.

In a department that has spent is share of time in the spotlight over the past year, van der Vaart has been largely out of the spotlight. He did testify before Congress in opposition to rules lowering carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, and his name surfaced in connection with a closed-door offshore energy confab between state and federal regulators.

At least one environmental groups was critical of the choice.

"Today’s appointment of Don Van der Vaart to the position of Secretary of DENR is a missed opportunity by the Governor to restore pubic confidence in credibility of the agency after the battering DENR's reputation has taken the last two years," said Molly Diggins of North Carolina's Sierra Club Chapter. Asked why the group had this objection, she said, "At a minimum, van der Vaart can be expected to closely follow the approach of outgoing Sec. Skvarla. Beyond that, the question going forward is if the McCrory administration is going to make environmental decisions based on ideology versus what is good for the state."


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  • Jack Jones Dec 29, 2014
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    Explain his "science" in opposing lowering carbon emissions from coal-fired plants. The statement is in the article.

  • Jeff Herring Dec 24, 2014
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    Another right-wing McCreepy ideologue. Better grab a gas mask and a water filter, fracking anyone?

  • flyfish42 Dec 24, 2014

    It will be interesting to see if he displays the same level of disdain as other McCrory DENR appointees toward the employees he is supposed to "lead".

  • Teresa Engel Dec 24, 2014
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    With his background in chemical engineering, maybe he could write policies to NOT poison our groundwater with fracking water. And maybe he can force Duke to clean up the Dan River and fix their coal ash ponds. Yeah. Right. He was appointed by Mr. McEnergy, so I am sure that will equate to more environmental disasters, not less.

  • Jeff Herring Dec 23, 2014
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    This cat is Mr right wing ideology primarily not so much Mr environment.

  • Jeff Herring Dec 23, 2014
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    Right in line with McCrory's ideology. As for air and water quality, no doubt a secondary concern.

  • lwmayhew51 Dec 23, 2014

    Rest assured if McCrory picked him, he is pro-fracking without a doubt. The environment has been ill-served by this administration!

  • Kevin O'Donnell Dec 23, 2014
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    All you politicos should see that this man is a 20-year veteran of the dept. He is NOT a political hack. Sounds like McCrory made a great choice here.

  • johnnymanziel Dec 23, 2014

    How lovely.