The head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality wants states to choose which laws to enforce

The head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump last week, asking him to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency.

The letter requests that Trump “return environmental leadership to the states,” “place a moratorium on currently proposed and new federal regulations,” “work with state governors and environmental directors to eliminate federal overreach,” and “end secret policy-making by Washington insiders.

“By returning responsibility for implementing these laws to the states, your administration can avoid the agenda-driven federal regulatory process that has stifled our country’s competitiveness,” North Carolina’s Donald van der Vaart writes.

But in most states — including North Carolina — the state agency is tasked with enforcing regulations that fall under the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

The Nixon-era laws were created largely because state law was not stringent enough to protect the nation’s air and water — and because a state-by-state environmental regulatory system can create a “race to the bottom,” as polluting companies relocate to the places that will ask them to do the least on environmental protection. If the state fails to adequately enforce the federal laws, then civil groups can sue under federal law.

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