By Eliza Laubach
North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality’s regulatory control is in jeopardy, according to a letter sent to the state department’s secretary from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in October. In the letter, the EPA expressed concern that recent court cases limit citizen rights to appeal DEQ permits beyond federal standards.
The DEQ’s response claimed they were misunderstood and argued that state permitting rules give citizens greater input than the federal rules. If the court verdicts are upheld, the EPA could exercise its right to review DEQ’s permitting programs, the letter said, which would also encompass a package of changes to environmental regulations passed by the state earlier this fall. If discrepancies are found with federal requirements, the EPA could withdraw their authorization of DEQ’s permitting programs.
In Kentucky, a WFPL Louisville Public Media investigation found that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection has become lax in regulatory enforcement over the past 20 years. Budget cuts, staff reductions and recent industry-friendly administrations have contributed to decreasing violations and enforcement pursued in court. Legal proceedings over violations currently average about 50 percent less cases per year than 15 years ago, according to data reviewed by the investigation, which also found that some of Kentucky’s waterways are more polluted than they were a decade ago