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From the state that made it illegal to predict rising sea levels comes another step toward outwardly denying science. North Carolina’s head of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), John Skvarla, has returned two federal grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would have allowed the state to study the impacts of fracking on streams and wetlands.

Skvarla, recently appointed to the position by Governor Pat McCrory (R), said that DENR does not need the two grants, since the group that would be carrying out the study, the Program Development Unit, is set to close due to budget cuts.

The first grant from the EPA, which totaled $222,595, was to be used to collect data on the water quality of the state’s streams. The second grant of $359,710 was for the long-term monitoring of state wetlands.

A spokesperson from the EPA said that the Tar Heel State was the first in the southeast to return a grant.

Tom Reeder, director of the Division of Water Resources, said that the study will be completed, but at a later date when the state obtains more information on where fracking would occur, and can fully identify what pollutants are of concern.

Reeder told the Charlotte Observer, “We know we have to have this data. I don’t think we can move forward with fracturing, by statute, without this data.”

The closure of the Program Development Unit will cut roughly 70 jobs and will save the state $4 million a year, which could go towards a fracking study in the future.

But the North Carolina Sierra Club was skeptical of the state’s decision to return funds to the EPA.

Director of the NC Sierra Club Molly Diggins said, “This is not a grant being imposed on North Carolina by a federal agency that doesn’t really know what we need. This was a grant being sought by DENR to meet known challenges.”

Diggins also added, “It raises concern of whether this is part of a trend of backing away from science.”

The Program Development Unit divisively reported recently that some streams were killing aquatic life when they dry up in the summer, and as a result, it was required that damage done to the streams was fully compensated.

Reeder tried to reassure North Carolinians, saying “What we are doing is running state government as efficiently as possible while still protecting our water quality and making drinking water safe for everybody in the state. We haven’t done a single thing to diminish what we need to do.”

Think Progress reports that North Carolina is currently under a fracking moratorium, but once that’s lifted the state is certain to find some of its basins being tapped, particularly two in Lee and Durham.

H/T: Charlotte Observer

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