In what could be a parting gift to the citizens of North Carolina, Donald van der Vaart, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality, has sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump asking him to all but disband the EPA.
Read the letter here: letter-van-der-vaart-to-trump
“The EPA has run out of control,” the letter, dated Nov. 16, reads. “By returning responsibility for implementing these laws to the states, your administration can avoid the agenda- driven federal regulatory process that has stifled our country’s competitiveness.”
The communication, written on official North Carolina letterhead, was co-signed by van der Vaart’s counterparts in Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota and West Virginia.
“Our country still needs the EPA, but not the EPA of recent years,” the letter goes on. “We need research targeted at our specific, clear environmental challenges. This can best be done by coordinating industry-level initiatives that cross state lines, which can be defined by measurable success. We must put an end to the idea that more regulation is always good, and instead allow state and local experts to improve the environment.”
The secretaries also ask Trump to place a moratorium on proposed federal regulations governing reductions of carbon emissions (the Clean Power Plan) and improving water quality near agricultural land (Waters of the United States). In both cases, North Carolina has sued the federal government, alleging the EPA is exercising “overreach.”
The clincher, though, is the request that the EPA “end secret policy deal-making by Washington insiders” and include a broader range of “stakeholders”: “State governments welcome the opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process, and that process will run more smoothly once the EPA shifts from being an autocrat to being our partner.”
Ironically, in 2015, the EPA scolded van der Vaart and DEQ for limiting the ability of citizens, aka stakeholders, to provide input on environmental permits.
While environmental advocates would agree that special interests wield too much power, the deal-making usually favors the very industries — energy companies, agribusiness, the chemical industry — that the EPA regulates.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top clients that lobby the EPA include Energy Future Holdings, ExxonMobil, the American Feed Industry Association and Bayer, which manufactures neonicotinoids. The EPA is currently considering additional restrictions on neonics.
Barring further election maneuvers by Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign, it’s likely that Roy Cooper will win the gubernatorial race. He leads by more than 5,000 votes. And that means van der Vaart will be ushered out, along with many other McCrory appointees.
Margaret Lillard, communications coordinator for the NC Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a prepared statement, “It’s not enough that the McCrory administration has spent four years trying its best to reverse course on North Carolina’s land, water and air protections. On their way out the door, it appears they’re trying to blast holes in our national environmental policies.”