The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has removed links and documents pertaining to climate change from its website, according to a report by WRAL. The agency has already been heavily criticized during the past two months for its failure to address Duke Energy’s leaking coal ash ponds.
Until the end of January, information about climate change was available on the front page of the state environmental agency’s Division of Air Quality website, WRAL reports. But, sometime during the past two months, the page was edited to remove climate change links and information. A page dedicated to information about greenhouse gases and climate change no longer exists either.
Two major reports on climate change are also missing from the site, both of which were commissioned by the state legislature and completed in 2008.
Division of Air Quality spokesman Tom Mather told WRAL that the decision to remove the links and information was made by division Director Sheila Holman and is part of an ongoing effort to “update, refresh, and redesign” the website.
“Currently, states do not have a lot of regulatory authority dealing with climate change,” he said. “We do have responsibilities in several areas; however, and we still include that information on our website.”
Gov. Pat McCrory and state Environmental Secretary John Skvarla, a McCrory appointee, have made it clear that they are skeptical of climate change. In an appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” in February, McCrory said, “I feel that there’s always been climate change. The debate is, really, how much of it is manmade and how much will it cost to have any impact on climate change?”
In February, The Associated Press reported that the relationship between state environmental regulators and industry has become cozier since the inauguration of Gov. McCrory, a pro-business Republican and former Duke Energy employee.
In light of the recent coal ash disaster in North Carolina, it was reported that DENR three times blocked citizen lawsuits against Duke Energy in recent years, prior to the spill. The lawsuits were filed in attempt to force Duke to clean up its aging, toxic coal ash ponds. Environmental groups have suggested that McCrory’s administration and DENR intervened to protect Duke from harsher penalties it may have faced in federal court.
“We have a governor right now that has very close ties to Duke, the state’s largest polluter and a major political contributor to his campaigns,” Amy Adams, the former regional director at the state environmental agency responsible for enforcing surface water standards told The AP. “Under the new administration, North Carolina has changed the definition of who its customer is from the public and the natural resources it is supposed to protect to the industries it regulates.”
Division of Air Quality spokesman Tom Mather told ClimateProgress that the Environmental Secretary’s views on climate change had no influence on the agency’s decision to remove information from its website and that the agency still has links to climate change information on other pages. He also noted that “Our secretary has said that he feels that our department needs to recognize that there are all kinds of views on any subject, a diversity of views, and that’s been his primary position.”