When the Deregulation Chickens Come Home to Roost in North Carolina

 Wet coal ash from the Dan River earlier this month. The spill coated the river bottom 70 miles downstream and threatened drinking water and aquatic life. Credit Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Wet coal ash from the Dan River earlier this month. The spill coated the river bottom 70 miles downstream and threatened drinking water and aquatic life. Credit Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors, who had been called from across the state to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”

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We hope, when all the tallies are done, it will be the folks who hate regulation so much, who ‘will be gone.”