News: Quick Takes

Nominee for Department of Environmental Quality secretary begins filling out staff

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While in the military, Col. John A. Nicholson worked on energy efficiency and environmental conservation initiatives. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary nominee Michael S. Regan wants the now-retired Marine Corps officer to bring that background to the agency charged with protecting and preserving North Carolina’s natural resources.

Regan, although he has yet to be confirmed by the Senate, is moving ahead with assembling his staff.

Regan said in a news release Monday afternoon he appointed Nicholson as DEQ’s chief deputy secretary. That was part of a larger announcement of several key appointments to his leadership team.

“All are proven leaders with strong track records in environmental stewardship who have devoted much of their careers to working with diverse stakeholders from a wide range of viewpoints as a way to find practical solutions to complex problems,” Regan said.

A 28-year veteran in the Marines, Nicholson succeeds John Evans. His duties include overseeing various managerial duties, including special projects related to the military.

Nicholson served as the military affairs adviser to two North Carolina governors.

Sheila Holman has been named DEQ’s assistant secretary for the environment. In his release, Regan called her “a dedicated and talented career public servant.” She replaces Tom Reeder.

Holman has worked for nearly three decades in the federal and state air quality regulatory arenas. She’s spent the past six years leading the state Division of Air Quality.

Holman will oversee development of major policy initiatives for programs with responsibilities such as permitting of discharges to surface waters; issuance of air emissions permits; implementation of grant programs for wastewater and permitting of coastal development; and regulation of animal operations.

Mike Abraczinskas will serve as the acting director for the N.C. Division of Air Quality. Much of his career has been as a DEQ employee.

Attorney William F. Lane replaces Sam Hayes as DEQ’s general counsel. Lane has worked for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton in Raleigh the past 20 years representing a variety of business and governmental clients on issues related to energy, air quality, waste management, and water quality.

Lane “will be the first point of contact in litigation, acting as the service agent for all contested cases, tort claims and other lawsuits involving the department,” according to Regan’s statement. “He will supervise the rulemaking coordination process, and provide advice on new policy initiatives, legislation, contracts, conflicts of interest and dispute resolution.”

Anderson “Andy” Miller was tapped as legislative affairs director. Miller has managed legislative functions for two state House representatives. Miller will work with members of the General Assembly on environmental legislation and constituent issues, and coordinate DEQ’s periodic reports to the General Assembly. Miller replaces Mollie Young.

Jamie Kritzer has been named DEQ’s acting deputy secretary for public affairs. Kritzer has worked as a public information officer for the agency since 2003. Prior to joining DEQ, he was a newspaper reporter. Kritzer will oversee the agency’s internal and external communications. Kritzer replaces Stephanie Hawco.

Regan’s appointment as DEQ secretary is controversial, and could raise close scrutiny by the Senate due to his past work as associate vice president and southeast regional director of U.S. Climate and Energy for the left-wing environmental activist organization Environmental Defense Fund.

He is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing on March 8, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has asked Republican lawmakers to delay the process until a decision comes in a lawsuit he filed to block the Senate advice and consent rules.

Dan E. Way (@danway_carolina) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.