Faced with an unprecedented environmental disaster like coal ash or an unprecedented civil rights disaster like HB2, Commerce Secretary John Skvarla said he would choose pollution.
“I’ll go back to DENR and take coal ash all day long,” he recently told members of the NC Travel and Tourism Board. “Candidly, I can quantify coal ash. And I can measure it in boxcars and truckloads, and get it out of here, whatever we’re going to do.”
Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Skvarla as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality (then known as DENR) in 2013. The Dan River coal ash spill occurred right in the middle of Skvarla’s tenure in February 2014. Then in January 2015, McCrory moved Skvarla over to Commerce.
Audio of Skvarla’s comments indicate that he made the comment while speaking about the escalating economic damage from discriminatory HB2. (The portion about coal ash begins around the 1:50 mark.) Technically, HB2’s economic damage can be quantified, too. So far, it’s totaled at least $300 million in lost business to the state.
A Williams Institute study out of the UCLA Law School projected in May that the cost could reach $5 billion a year.
Skvarla is a non-voting member of that travel and tourism board.