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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Guest - Environmentally Speaking

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DEQ expresses support for offshore wind, asks for environmental protections and seismic surveying

North Carolina filed its response on Tuesday to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) request for information on the State of the Offshore Renewable Energy Industry. Jenny Kelvington, Executive Director for Energy at DEQ, expressed North Carolina’s support for responsible development of our state’s abundant offshore wind resources. Kelvington also encouraged BOEM to establish an appropriate buffer that protects the environment and the view from our coastal communities, and asked that the Bureau support seismic surveying that will support informed decision-making about offshore wind energy development. You can read the letter here.

Jenny Kelvington named Executive Director for Energy

 The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced today that Jenny Kelvington has been named Executive Director for Energy, effective Dec. 1. In that role, she will lead DEQ’s newly formed Energy Group, which is responsible for developing policy that protects the environment and promotes clean, reliable and affordable energy resources.

Kelvington has been the acting director since the Energy Group was created in November. She joined DEQ in 2007 and most recently served as Senior Policy Advisor with an emphasis on energy strategy. She will continue to advise the secretary on energy policy, support the Energy Policy Council and the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, and serve as North Carolina’s point of contact with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for offshore energy.  Prior to joining DEQ, Kelvington worked as an environmental engineer at IBM.  She graduated summa cum laude from N.C. State University with a degree in chemical engineering and is a professional engineer.  

The Energy Group was established to reflect the greater role energy strategy plays in DEQ and the state. It is comprised of the Energy and N.C. Geological Survey sections and includes initiatives such as the Oil & Gas Program, energy efficiency, and weatherization.

DEQ asks for 24nm offshore wind buffer to protect environment, economy

DEQ’s top energy advisor emphasized North Carolina’s support for a 24 nautical mile buffer for offshore wind at a recent meeting with federal officials from the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior. Jenny Kelvington, the Acting Executive Director of DEQ’s newly formed Energy Group, offered North Carolina’s perspective at the 2016 National Offshore Wind Strategy strategy session in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10.

The federal government has identified three Wind Energy Areas off the coast of North Carolina – Kitty Hawk, Wilmington East, and Wilmington West – that have potential to harness the state’s abundant wind energy resources. Kelvington discussed with federal leaders the need to safeguard the environment and the view from North Carolina’s coastal communities when developing offshore wind. The federal government has proposed a buffer of 10 nautical miles from shore. DEQ believes that a 24 nautical mile buffer would best protect the environment and the state’s vibrant visitor industry.

Offshore wind is part of the DEQ Energy Group’s all-of-the-above strategy to ensure clean, reliable, and affordable energy for all North Carolinians.

Secretary speaks to farmers about environmental issues impacting NC's agricultural industry

Secretary Donald van der Vaart attended the NC Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention in Greensboro earlier this week where he addressed a crowd of roughly 500 farmers. The secretary’s remarks focused on three acts of federal overreach that are impacting North Carolina and its agricultural industry: the Affordable Care Act, Federal Power Rule and Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

Click the video to watch excerpts of his remarks.

You may also access the video here.

State environmental leaders meet with businesses about how to improve environmental protection

State leaders brought together North Carolina’s best environmental stewards for a Thursday meeting in Raleigh to discuss permitting and other topics important to the regulated community across the state.

These stewards are part of the North Carolina Environmental Stewardship Initiative, a program run by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality that recognizes businesses and other organizations with superior environmental track records. Environmental stewards are given the opportunity each year to meet with DEQ’s leadership for an informal discussion of timely environmental topics.          

“This is a great opportunity for us to meet with the some of the most committed environmental managers of companies from the North Carolina’s regulated community,” said Donald van der Vaart, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “This is another vehicle to foster open dialogue between the regulated community and DEQ to find practical ways of improving environmental protection.

Secretary van der Vaart and DEQ leadership met with the stewards to discuss organizational changes in DEQ, regulatory updates, and an initiative to make permitting inspections more efficient for the state and the regulated community. Several of the Stewards at Thursday’s meeting brought up topics relating to permitting, stormwater, regionalization of water/sewer systems as well as technology improvements, zero-waste-to-landfill goals, and renewable energy. 

Several stewards expressed appreciation Thursday for the opportunity to speak informally about a number of subjects important to their operations.

The Stewards who participated Thursday were: Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations in Wilson; EMC Corporation in Apex; TE Connectivity in Greensboro; Santa Fe Natural Tobacco in Oxford; ASMO in Statesville; GKN Driveline in Sanford; Fleet Readiness Center East in Cherry Point; Engineered Sintered Components in Troutman; Stanley, Black & Decker in Kannapolis; the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro; Corning in Hickory and Wilmington; Daimler Trucks North America in Cleveland County and High Point; Gastonia and Two Rivers Utilities; and the Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park.

 

The Environmental Stewardship Initiative is a voluntary program available at no cost to our members. It provides technical assistance and networking opportunities to stimulate the development and implementation of programs that use pollution prevention and innovative approaches to exceed regulatory requirements.

NCDEQ meets with Chinese water delegation to discuss water quality management

Last week, staff with the N.C. Division of Water Resources met with a Chinese water delegation, involving individuals from various environmental groups in China, to share information about water quality management.

The group learned more about how state environmental officials develop water quality standards, conduct monitoring and make water quality assessments.

“This was a golden opportunity to share how North Carolina adopts its water quality standards,” said Jay Zimmerman, DEQ's Water Resources director. “We welcome opportunities such as these to engage in a cross-continental exchange of ideas.”

 

Three staff members from the Division of Water Resources gave presentations and three native Chinese staff members helped to translate the information. The Chinese water delegation was led by N.C. State University. 

 

DEQ Secretary hosts holiday tree trimming party

Employees from DEQ joined one another this morning to celebrate the holidays with a tree trimming party. The Secretary’s Office hosted the get-together that saw employees from different departmental divisions come together to decorate the tree and enjoy refreshments.

Secretary van der Vaart encouraged everyone to take a moment to hang an ornament on the tree. DEQ's Assistant Secretary for the Environment Tom Reeder was elected to climb the ladder and put on the tree topper. There was a bit of laughter as it took a few tries to place the star correctly, but he completed the task successfully. Many volunteered to make homemade holiday cookies, from chocolate peppermint to butter pecan and there was delicious cran-apple punch for everyone to enjoy. 

Many employees expressed gratitude for being able to celebrate the holidays with their coworkers and appreciation for the positive work environment it fostered. Secretary van der Vaart hopes to have more opportunities to bring the department together, and he wishes DEQ employees and their families happy holidays this season.

  

DEQ fact checks top lobbyist group on proposed air quality rules
The environmental special interest and top lobbying group in the state, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), issued a press release on Tuesday filled with inaccuracies regarding DEQ’s proposed rule to improve the efficacy of its air quality permit program.  The press release summarized objections made by the SELC on behalf of its clients to the proposed rule change. Their objections reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the law and regulations.
 
In September, the NC Environmental Management Commission, or EMC, accepted public comments on the rule change that is expected to streamline DEQ resources and result in reduced emissions. The proposed rule modifies the administrative permitting requirements for a number of very small business owners throughout the state. The EMC held a public hearing on Nov. 4 and accepted public comments on the rule from Oct. 1 until Nov. 30. 
In an effort to correct the false information contained in the SELC press release and better inform the public about the proposed rule, DEQ staff assembled the following Myth vs. Fact, which quotes myths from the SELC press release and provides the corresponding facts:
 
MYTH: The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) proposal to exempt 1,200 emitters of dangerous pollutants from pollution limits and reporting requirements ignores the local and cumulative impacts—including higher cancer risk—from allowing more toxic pollution in North Carolina’s air.
 
FACT:
  • There will be no increase in emissions under the new rule.
  • No facility will be exempted from any existing emission standards or limits under the new rule.
  • Facilities would remain subject to all current emission limitations and requirements, including all health based standards.
  • The combined actual emissions from the 1200 very small businesses that are expected to qualify under this new proposal emit a total of approximately 0.6% of all emissions in NC.
 
MYTH: Instead of protecting the people of North Carolina, DEQ is proposing to increase the risks of cancer and serious illness to children, families, and anyone who breathes in North Carolina for the convenience of polluters, state bureaucrats and politicians.
 
FACT:   
  • The proposed rule change will allow DEQ staff to concentrate resources on facilities that have the greatest environmental impact thereby enhancing environmental protection in NC.
  • The majority of the “small” and “very small” permitted facilities are small businesses.
  • The changes would save businesses an estimated $768,225 per year in permit fees and associated costs.
MYTH: The state’s proposed changes to existing air quality standards would exempt about 1,200 facilities that emit toxic and pervasive air pollutants from having to comply with the state air quality permitting process. Another 240 facilities would become eligible to register with N.C. DEQ’s Division of Air Quality, rather than having to obtain a permit for their pollution.
 
FACT:                                   
  • The 240 “small” sources account for 2.9 percent of commonly found air pollutants from stationary sources and will be transitioned to registration. Registered facilities will continue to be inspected under their current inspection schedule.
  • As mentioned above, actual emissions from the 1200 very small businesses comprise approximately 0.6% of all emissions in NC.
  • Every facility, including the small businesses that would no longer need an administrative permit, is subject to inspection at any time.
  • DEQ retains ability to take enforcement action if federal or state standards are violated.
  • Registration process will be less burdensome than full permitting, which will save small businesses money and allow DEQ to focus its resources on facilities that have a greater impact.
MYTH: These permitting changes would eliminate important public health safeguards at a time when many of North Carolina’s historic air quality protections have been recently dismantled, including eliminating air monitors and health-based limits on toxic air pollution.
 
FACT:
  • North Carolinians breathe cleaner air today than at any time in the past 25 years. NC currently complies with all health-based national standards throughout the state.
  • The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced this summer that the state is in attainment for all pollutants in all areas of the state for the first time since 1997. 
  • Over the past 15 years, NC has slashed its toxic air pollutant emissions by more than 80 percent and cut its criteria pollutant emissions in half.
  • NC has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion by more than 20% since 2005 and is on track to reach a 30% reduction by 2030.
  • State law recognizes that ambient monitoring of regional air pollutants such as ozone requires fewer monitors. The resources can now be applied to new federal requirements for short-term pollutants such as sulfur dioxide.
MYTH: All of the facilities exempted under this proposal also have the potential to emit pollution at levels above the exemption thresholds set out by DEQ because, once these polluters are exempt from permit requirements, they could reduce or cease operating their pollution controls, increasing toxic pollution back above the threshold, without public knowledge.
 
FACT:
  • Facilities are still required to comply with state and federal air quality rules.
  • DEQ maintains ability to inspect facilities and take enforcement action if federal or state air quality rules are violated.
  • The rule change would NOT allow sources to remove or quit operating existing air pollution control devices.
  • Just like any new facility, existing facilities will be required to obtain a permit if their emissions exceed the exemption threshold.
You may read more about the Streamlining of Permit Exemptions Rule here.

 

DEQ submits voluntary internal environmental audit program to EPA for approval

On Nov. 20, DEQ submitted its request to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval to establish an Environmental Audit Privilege and Limited Immunity Program. The program was included in a provision of House Bill 765, also known as the Regulatory Reform Act, which became law on Oct. 22.

The Environmental Audit Privilege and Limited Immunity Program will replace North Carolina’s previous self-reporting policy entitled “Enforcement Policy for Self-Reported Violations,” which was established in 1995 and was generally broader in scope than what North Carolina proposed to the EPA. DEQ rescinded the previous policy on Oct. 23.

The new program will improve environmental protection by encouraging owners and operators to conduct voluntary internal environmental audits not required by environmental laws and regulations. This will give owners and operators more incentive to report pollution and issues they currently are not required to disclose. The proposed program is modeled after policies that are in place in 20 other states and must be approved by the EPA.

The proposed program has received unfounded criticism from special interest environmental groups. Contrary to their claims, the proposed program is actually very narrow and would not exempt, for example, any permitted activities (which include all applicable requirements) or activities requiring notifications under state or federal law.

The EPA is under no time constraint to respond. You can read the letter to the EPA here.

Jenny Kelvington: Clean, affordable energy a priority

The following op-ed by Jenny Kelvington, who was recently named DEQ's Acting Executive Director for Energy, ran in the New Bern Sun Journal on Sunday:

In response to the Nov. 7 op-ed “Dismantling North Carolina’s natural identity,” I’d like to assure your readers that the renewable energy industry – and the McCrory administration’s commitment to environmental protection – are thriving in North Carolina. The facts dispel the authors’ attempts to pollute the administration’s record on renewable energy.

As part of his all-of-the-above energy strategy, Governor McCrory promotes all resources – including renewables – that can provide North Carolinians with clean, reliable and affordable energy. 

North Carolina ranked second in the nation in the amount of solar capacity installed in 2014 and has more solar capacity than all other states in the Southeast combined.

Earlier this year, the governor and Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality helped break ground on a wind farm in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties that will be the largest in the Southeast. Secretary van der Vaart has promoted our offshore wind resources during visits to our coastal communities and in discussions with federal regulators who are weighing the development of offshore wind.

The renewable industry will receive more than $2 billion in tax credits from 2010 –16. That significant investment has allowed the renewable energy industry to mature to the point that it can continue to grow without support from the state.

North Carolina must take a comprehensive view of its energy portfolio to ensure that it does not become overly reliant on a single resource. All-of-the-above means every energy resource – including solar, nuclear, on-and offshore wind, and on- and offshore oil & natural gas – should be part of the mix.

Diversifying our energy resources is essential in maintaining power grid reliability and keeping energy costs low for ratepayers.

The authors’ criticism of the administration’s position against federal rules concerning North Carolina’s power sector and water are misguided at best. Both rules are acts of federal overreach that are being forced on North Carolinians by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Both rules are illegal and both would cause harm to North Carolinians with little if any benefit to the environment.

Waters of the United States, the federal water rule, would place land that has never before been regulated, including nearly all land east of I-95, under federal control. The value of land as an investment will inevitably suffer and the cost of developing or farming land would dramatically increase. On the electricity generating front, the federal power plan represents a takeover of the nation’s electricity generating system – one that is estimated to increase utility bills by 22% in North Carolina, an increase that will disproportionately impact the poor.

Our state has already achieved the air quality improvements sought by the federal government and will continue to make improvements without federal regulators taking over our power system.

As a former engineer in DEQ’s Division of Air Quality who permitted regulated industry, I’m proud to say that North Carolinians are breathing cleaner air today than at any time since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970.

The op-ed in question is an example of the misinformation that is being circulated about the administration’s record on environmental protection.

I urge your readers to get their information from unbiased sources – not from special interest groups who equate fearmongering with fundraising. The facts make it clear that our priority is to protect the environment while advocating for clean, reliable and affordable energy for all North Carolinians.

You may read the op-ed online here.

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