GOP wants to downsize state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources

DENR is North Carolina's chief regulator for air, land and water quality.

Please check out the front-page article in The News & Observer about Republican efforts in North Carolina to dismantle DENR.

“I’d like to see DENR downsized,” said Sen. Don East, a Republican from Pilot Mountain and co-chairman of the budget committee that controls DENR’s purse strings. “I’d like to see them be a kinder, gentler agency. I’d like to see DENR be a help, not a hindrance to business and industry.”

The Republican push is likely to win some backing in the business community, but it has caused concern among environmentalists and their allies.

“What I perceive is a generalized attack on all parts of DENR,” said Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill, the House Democratic leader, who has longtime ties to the environmental movement. “There are some people who want to dismantle it and reduce it to little or nothing. There are others who want to neuter its regulatory side, which the public will not like. The public places a high value on clean water and clean air.”

Environmental regulation has long been a target of conservatives, particularly in Washington, where Republicans often portray the Environmental Protection Agency as overreaching.

…Hackney said DENR has done a good job of running the federal environmental programs that are delegated to the states. If the state programs are cut too much, the federal government will end up taking over the program, and people will have to go to the regional EPA office in Atlanta for permits.

“That is not good for business in North Carolina,” Hackney said. “I just hope any review will be done thoughtfully and the governor will resist any unwise changes.”

Read the full article here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/03/24/1077117/gop-wants-to-shrink-environmental.html

A similar article in The Carrboro Citizen delved even deeper, commenting on and analyzing the dramatic severity of the GOP’s intentions to pick apart DENR.

Legislators and locally based environmental advocates say what’s being contemplated isn’t just the result of budget cuts, but represents the overturning of long-term polices and even the potential dismantling of the North Carolina Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the state’s chief regulator for air, land and water quality.

“There’s no question that the environment is in the crosshairs,” said John Runkle, an environmental lawyer from Chapel Hill.

Runkle said it’s not just a case of overturning a few rules or shifting funds.

“I think there’s a systematic effort to destroy all environmental efforts and all environmental agencies,” he said.

It’s a change in direction that Runkle said is growing more alarming as more details emerge.

“It’s worse than anybody expected. They’ve gone beyond what industry was asking for,” he said.

Derb Carter, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said many of the changes he and others have heard might be coming are starting to surface.

“The approach seems to be to defund and dismantle DENR,” he said.

One indication is in the target that budget writers have been given. In her budget, Gov. Beverly Perdue took a solid whack at DENR programs herself, paring the budget from a base of $480 million to $407 million. But the GOP leadership’s budget target given to the appropriations committee that handles DENR’s budget cuts even deeper, to $323 million – a reduction of almost exactly one-third.

“Everyone recognizes the financial challenge that has to be met,” Carter said, “but the cuts targeted for environmental programs in DENR are disproportionate.”

Read the full article here: http://www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2011/03/24/gop-planning-to-rewrite-environmental-policy-dismantle-regulator/

Tell your state legislators that they need to do everything in their power to protect DENR and North Carolina’s environment. Environmental protection is good for the economy and for jobs in our state!

 

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