PITTSBORO - North Carolina faces its fair share of environmental challenges. From GenX chemical contamination along the coast to coal ash disposal closer to home, protecting the state's natural resources is more urgent than ever. And it's good policy for everyone.
That was the assessment from Michael S. Regan, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, who spoke to an audience on March 8 at the Chatham Community Library on the Central Carolina Community College Chatham Main Campus.
While some high-profile issues seem to pit industry and environmentalists against each other, Regan doesn't see it that way. With a thriving clean-energy sector and companies of all kinds placing a greater emphasis on the quality of life, he believes environmental protection and economic development go hand in hand.
Regan said North Carolina has been able to attract and retain business because it offers what companies want -- the combination of a skilled workforce and abundant natural resources. That means both need to be promoted and preserved.
"Together from both practices -- from both protecting the environment and boosting our economy -- we will ensure that our state remains a beacon of opportunity," he said.
During the first few minutes of his hour-long presentation, Regan mixed lessons learned growing up in eastern North Carolina with an overview of the agency he directs. But most of the discussion came during a question-and-answer session.
Regan responded to topics ranging from what environmental curricula are available for school teachers to hot-button issues like what the state is doing to regulate coal ash disposal and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile, underground natural gas pipeline that would run from north central West Virginia to southeastern North Carolina.
In addition to providing specifics, Regan repeated several themes. How his department's ability to step in and change the direction of many issues is restricted by federal and state law. How citizens can shape environmental policy by getting involved in the political process. And that recurring theme: How environmental stewardship and economic development can work together to create opportunity for everyone in the state.
This was the second annual lecture in a series on environmental sustainability sponsored by the Richard and Rebecca Hayes Endowed Lecture Fund for Environmental Policy and Stewardship through the CCCC Foundation. Andrew McMahan, chair of CCCC's Department of Sustainability, launched the series last year with an introduction to the concept of sustainability, discussing why the approach is so important and how it balances human needs, environmental concerns and economic profit.
Richard Hayes, who was on hand to introduce this year's speaker, said he and his wife endowed the annual lecture because they share a passion for sustainability and the desire to foster environmental stewardship. With so many concerns now emerging -- global warming and climate change, he said, were probably the most pressing -- creating an annual forum to discuss environmental policy was an important step to strengthen the community.
"We hope this will grow," Hayes said immediately before the lecture. "This is for all of central North Carolina, but it has an opportunity to flourish and grow here in this county and on this campus."
The CCCC Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization affiliated with, but independent of, Central Carolina Community College. It receives donations of money and equipment on behalf of the college and uses them to promote its educational mission and assist students through scholarships and grants.
For more information about the Foundation, its work and events, visit www.cccc.edu/foundation/. For more information about classes and programs at Central Carolina Community College, visit www.cccc.edu.
Michael S. Regan, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, was the speaker for Central Carolina Community College's second sustainable speaker series. The event, sponsored by the Richard and Rebecca Hayes Endowed Lecture Fund for Environmental Policy and Stewardship through the CCCC Foundation, was held Thursday, March 8, at the CCCC Chatham Main Campus in Pittsboro.
Michael S. Regan (left), Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, who was the speaker for Central Carolina Community College's second sustainable speaker series, is pictured with Richard Hayes (right). The event was sponsored by the Richard and Rebecca Hayes Endowed Lecture Fund for Environmental Policy and Stewardship through the CCCC Foundation.