Under the Dome

DENR head John Skvarla riffs on fracking, agency layoffs, job creation

John Skvarla, North Carolina's top environmental regulator, said Monday he is overseeing 15 reorganizations simultaneously at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in an effort to streamline the agency he has been running since January.

Skvarla said he doesn't know how many people will be laid off from the 4,000-employee agency, but noted that the purpose of the reorg is not to maximize body counts. Rather, Skvarla said, his goal is to make DENR more responsive in its dual mission of protecting the environment and growing the economy.

"Historically, the philosophy has been that corporate America is the enemy," Skvarla told a lunchtime crowd of several dozen at the conservative John Locke Foundation in Raleigh.

"We can't take people who are going to build the economy and treat them like the enemy," Skvarla said. "Everything we do in DENR has to involve some consideration of economics."

Skvarla said the agency is processing permit applications more quickly, but he also insisted that environmental protections haven't been sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit. He cited DENR's recent court filings of 14 enforcement actions against Duke Energy for alleged drinking water contamination at the Charlotte power company's coal ash pits throughout the state.

But he joked that if environmental advocates had their way, "we would live in lean-tos and wear loincloths."

With regard to the agency-wide reorganizations, Skvarla said "we've got that place upside down." He assured that if layoffs happen, they won't be drastic, and motivated employees will thrive.

"This isn't going to be burdensome," Skvarla said. "This is going to be an epiphany for most of these folks."

DENR's responsibilities include regulating shale gas exploration and enforcing penalties for chemical spills and other violations. As part of that task, DENR oversees and advises the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, which is writing 120-some rules to govern all aspects of shale gas exploration, or fracking.

Skvarla assured the mostly conservative, business-friendly audience at the John Locke Foundation that this state's fracking standards would not be onerous for industry.

"We don't want the most severe" rules, Skvarla said. "We want the rules that re the most appropriate in North Carolina."

He also echoed Gov. Pat McCrory's enthusiasm for the potential of fracking in North Carolina. While the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that North Caorlina contains only about 1.7 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, a fraction of the amount in Texas and Pennsylvania, some fracking advocates have said that estimate underestimates the state's gas potential

While natural gas prices are depressed worldwide, Skvarla said the state's gas reserves could hold a significant amount of "wet gas," the price of which is pegged to crude oil. Wet gas includes ethane, propane and butane, which condense into liquid when they rise to the surface.

"If we got wet gas, then Katy bar the door," Skvarla said. "It could be the panacea from heaven."

A video of Skvarla's hour-long speech and subsequent Q&A will be posted here Monday afternoon by the John Locke Foundation:


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Coach Bags Outlet

Shezanne Cassim, the American jailed in the United Arab Emirates after posting a video parody, was sentenced Monday to one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 UAE dirhams (approximately $2,700).
The young American living in the UAE has been imprisoned since April, his family says, for posting what was intended to be a funny video on the Internet.
He was accused of defaming the UAE's image abroad, according to The National, the country's main English-language newspaper.
The video in question is a 19-minute short that pokes fun at a clique of Dubai teens who are influenced by hip-hop culture. In the 1990s, the label "Satwa G" was coined for a group of suburban teens who were known to talk tougher than they really were.
The video depicts a look at a "combat school" in the suburb of Satwa, where these "gangsters" are trained. The training includes how to throw sandals at targets, using clothing accessories as whips, and how to call on the phone for backup.Cassim's family says the 29-year-old has been charged with endangering national security.The charges were not read out in court. UAE officials would only say "Mr. Cassim was charged under the UAE's penal code. Anyone charged with a crime under the laws of the UAE is entitled to the fair trial protections contained in the UAE's constitution."
Cassim, from Woodbury, Minnesota, moved to Dubai in 2006 after graduating from college to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He and some friends made and posted the video online in 2012. He was arrested in April. He was interrogated and arrested in Dubai before being transferred to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi. His family says it was five months before he was notified of the charges against him.


"Can't I just go back to giving old white men stacks and stacks of campaign money? That was a fun job."


Since when is a state government department titled Department of Environment and Natural Resources responsible for job creation and improving the state's economy? Don't we have a Department of Commerce? I want my state's environment protected. I also want a healthy economy with low unemployment. But those are two very separate functions. Are we in Wonderland?

Carol W. Pelosi

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