Van der Vaart Joins EPA Board, Placed on Leave by DEQ | News

Van der Vaart Joins EPA Board, Placed on Leave by DEQ

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After Governor Cooper won, Donald van der Vaart, the DEQ secretary under Governor McCrory, demoted himself and his deputy, John Evans, so that they’d be protected from political filings under civil service rules. Van der Vaart and Evans are, well, special, among environmental regulators, since neither seems inclined toward any sort of environmental regulation. Together, they’ve argued for the repeal of a key provision of the Clean Air Act, and van der Vaart, in particular, was remarkably sympathetic to Duke Energy over the coal ash debacle. So it’s no surprise, then, that when EPA leader Scott Pruitt revamped the agency’s advisory board to remove researchers and scientists and replace them with political hacks, he asked van der Vaart to join. Now, the DEQ has placed van der Vaart and Evans on investigative leave (with pay).
  • “[DEQ Secretary Michael] Regan offered no details of why van der Vaart and Evans were placed on leave. Under state personnel policies, workers may be suspended with pay for such purposes to investigate allegations of performance or conduct deficiencies that would constitute just cause for disciplinary action.”
  • “Under the McCrory administration, van der Vaart worked to roll back state air and water regulations, which brought him into conflict with the Obama administration EPA. Almost immediately, van der Vaart began stumping for nuclear energy, even though DEQ has little say in which power plants are built in North Carolina. He often expressed doubts about the environmental benefits of wind and solar farms.”
  • “While secretary of DEQ, van der Vaart made a salary of $130,935. In his current job, his salary is $98,000. Evans’ salary is nearly $93,000.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Van der Vaart—who was widely seen as angling for a gig in the Trump administration—demoted himself to keep his job and his fat paycheck. He’s been an outspoken opponent of most environmental regulations, which makes his choice to continue his career seem somewhat odd. (Surely Duke has a spot for him somewhere, after all he did for them.) Then he joins Pruitt’s advisory board. Now he’s sitting at home on the public dime.

This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.


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