Demoted former DEQ chief contradicts department policy in national environmental journal

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MaryKent Wolff
Staff Writer

The former chief of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and his chief deputy have called for the repeal of a core piece of the state’s Clean Air Act.

Donald van der Vaart, who served as the chief of DEQ, and his chief deputy, John Evans, published a seven page opinion piece in “Environmental Law Reporter” in September 2017. The article speaks out against the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) in the Clean Air Act which stops polluters from avoiding strict emission rules by moving to a place with cleaner air.

“Repealing PSD and other low-value programs converses finite resources…and leads to greater public health and welfare protection,” said van der Vaart and Evans in the article.

Former North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory, appointed van der Vaart in January 2015 and served there until December 2016. Van der Vaart demoted himself from the position before Governor Roy Cooper took office. He and Evans now work in the Division of Air Quality as section chiefs, where they are responsible for overseeing staff.

By taking a demotion to become an environmental regulator, a position he held for 20 years before being named DEQ chief two years ago, van der Vaart will be protected by state personnel laws from being fired by Cooper and his team,” wrote Laura Leslie in an article on

Environmental protection was a pillar of Cooper’s 2016 gubernatorial campaign. He has called for more renewable and sustainable energy. As North Carolina Attorney General, he awarded over $25 million to environmental conservation groups and hass also called for better water and air quality across the state.

“As Attorney General, I have disagreed with the state environmental regulators who were focused on scoring political points rather than protecting our water, air and other natural resources,” Cooper said on his website. “North Carolina solutions, with input from citizens, are the best ways to create jobs and pursue sound environmental policy that preserves natural resources and public health.”

At the end of the article, a footnote states that the opinions published are those of the authors, not the views of the DEQ or its current administration. The authors’ positions in the DEQ are however listed with their names.

“It’s an extremely radical view — like something you’d read in Breitbart News — and I don’t think they reflect the current leadership at the department,” said Derb Carter on Carter works at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) as a senior attorney.

“It appears to be an effort to undermine the current leadership after these political appointees put themselves in different position,” said Carter.

This is not the first time that van der Vaart has stepped out and spoken up against the current administration on what he refers to as “economic protectionism.” In November 2016, van der Vaart wrote a letter to President Trump calling for end to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After this, van der Vaart was also said to have been considered for the second highest ranking job at the EPA under Trump.

Categories: News, North Carolina, Uncategorized


1 reply

  1. This is just one in a long string of unethical and illegal activities by van der Vaart. When is the NC Attorney General or the FBI going into look how this bozo can be fired? His transgressions stretch back to the McCrory administration and defying the federal government; undermining federal and state laws governing the environment; open records and public access; employment law; and abominable behavior as a manager of state employees, especially female employees. I urge law enforcement to look into allegations of corruption and sexual harassment against this individual immediately. This essay of his, a blatant attempt to curry favor with the current White House, is just one in many, many things he has done that he needs to be held accountable for. I would also urge media to look into why he left previous employers and his conduct while employed by them. This is a leopard who has not changed his spots: the history is there.


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