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N.C. Agency Head Holman Urges Environmental Responsibility to Davidson Students

October 1, 2000
CONTACT: Bill Giduz

by Jimmy Swansbrough'03

It's not every day college students hear how close their state is to environmental disaster. Secretary William Holman of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided students that opportunity last Wednesday in the Chambers Gallery. His talk, entitled "North Carolina's Responsibility in Global Environment," broached several environmental topics that both surprised and impressed his audience.
Holman attends an earlier session of the conference. On the left is Irene Middleton '00, a Davidson Fellow in the Dean Rusk office. Behind and to the right is Karen Sorensen, conference administrator.

Holman began his lecture discussing the trials his department faces confronting the myriad environmental issues of the state. Issues such as air pollution, the growing swine waste problem, smart growth land management, and the maintenance of clean water were all described. Holman said, "We need to begin figuring out how to integrate environmental goals." He noted that many citizens threaten to move to other states if their local governments don't produce results with their environmental actions.

One key problem facing North Carolina is that of clean air. Holman cited air pollution as the top priority for the state, which has a serious ozone problem. The ozone comes from cars and trucks, and is also a product from all the electricity the state uses. The department introduced clean-air legislation to the government aimed at reducing the emissions from cars and trucks. North Carolina has adopted the national standard for cleaner gasoline, and requires most cars to be checked for their emission rates. Soon, eighty percent of cars in North Carolina will be checked for emissions, and the state will introduce a low-sulfur gas that will reduce emissions by ten percent.
Davidson President Robert Vagt (l) speaks with Holman at the conference.

Holman said the government is increasing investments in transit, and carpooling is greatly encouraged. "Cleaner cars and cleaner fuels are what's going to help us," Holman said.

Unfortunately, much of the new clean-air legislation will not help the North Carolina mountains. Pollutants from the Tennessee Valley and even Atlanta cause harm to the once-clean mountain air. Holman commended the efforts of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Initiative (SAMI) to reduce air pollution in an eight-state radius by working with legislatures, environmentalists, and citizens.

Another environmental problem Holman discussed was that caused by the ten million hogs in the state. Swine is a commodity more important to North Carolina than even tobacco, but the waste produced from such an industry creates a growing problem. An adult hog produces four times as much waste as an adult human, and the waste disposal technology isn't working. Holman said, "The best available technology right now is polluting the ground and surface waters." Holman commended Governor Jim Hunt for his pressure on the state to adopt innovative technology which can protect ground water and reduce emissions at the same time.

In fall 1999 Hurricane Floyd, which flooded animal waste lagoons and wastewater treatment plants, dumping tons of waste into rivers, provided a wake-up call for the need to adopt better waste disposal technology. After cleanup efforts, the General Assembly moved to adopt the Flood Prevention Act. The act bans animal waste lagoons and new junk yards, and initiated new mapping of the flood plain. New buffers will be installed in all the major rivers within the next couple years, and old buffers will be replaced.

"We're still learning lessons from Hurricane Floyd," Holman said.

Holman brought his lecture to a close with a presentation of the Million-Acre Initiative. Over the next several years, Governor Hunt plans to preserve one-million acres of forest land for the state. It will add land to current state parks, but will primarily rely on local and regional efforts. Holman concluded asking audience members for help with the environment. "We need folks like you working in the region to figure out what the state needs to do with its funding and assistance efforts," he said.

Holman, an alumnus of North Carolina State University, came to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in January of 1998. He was appointed secretary in August of 1999, and since then has helped push key environmental statutes through the legislature.

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