New environmental chief wants service approach

The Associated Press

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WILMINGTON — The new head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants agency workers to adopt a more customer-service approach to their jobs.

John Skvarla sent a mission statement to agency employees just two days after becoming secretary of the department.

Skvarla says he wants to improve what he calls the contentious nature of interactions between employees and people trying to obtain permits.

"DENR must always be a customer service-friendly organization, whether we're issuing permits or educating citizens about recycling," the document states

The Pinehurst businessman has worked for Restoration Systems based in Raleigh since 2005. The company restores wetlands for credits it sells to developers to offset those destroyed in other places to comply with federal Clean Water Act.

He says there is too much red tape in the current permitting process.

"Neither side is a bad guy. In permitting situations, people on the environmental side want the needle to fall on one side, and people on the development side want it to fall on the other side, but I don't think the two sides are that far apart,." Skvarla said.

Skvarla says he will not be leading an effort in the legislature to repeal or drop regulations environmental protection measures.

"We're not going to go backwards in terms of the quality of environment," Skvarla said.

As to climate change, Skvarla said there's a diversity of opinion on the issue.

"I think climate change is a science, and I believe science is constantly in need of scrutiny," he said.

New Hanover Sen. Thom Goolsby welcomes the service-mentality approach.

"It is our tax money and they do work for us, and we expect the laws to be enforced and we expect the environment to be protected, but we all have to realize that we're in this together."

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