County starts process of filling environmental committee seats

Applications now available to serve on review, advisory panel
Jan. 29, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Lee County is officially accepting applications for the newly created Environmental Review and Advisory Committee, the group tasked with reviewing technical documentation and advising the county on testing matters impacting the environment.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners voted to create the nine-person committee to replace the now-defunct Environmental Affairs Board during its Jan. 7 meeting.  An application deadline has not been set yet, but Lee County Clerk Gaynell Lee said four people have already submitted applications.

Along with the application, interested residents are asked to include a biography, resume or similar outline of skills. Preference will be given to applicants with the following areas of expertise:

* Agriculture

* Biology/Animal Science

* Ecology

* Environmental Engineering

* Environmental Health/Toxicology

* Environmental Law

* Forestry

* Geology

* Hydrology/Water Testing

* Meteorology/Air Testing

* Regulatory Planning and Enforcement (DENR or EPA)

* Soil Science

* Soil Testing

* Waste Management

Commissioner Jim Womack, who pushed for the creation of the new committee, said he'd like for the new group to have its first meeting in March.

"We have some things for them to start looking at," said Womack, who serves as the chairman of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, the board set to implement the regulations for natural gas drilling in North Carolina. "We have some emerging documents coming out of the Mining and Energy Commission, and even though I am attached, I want to get a second opinion from a local group with knowledge of the local ecology and local economy."

The committee will have the technical skills required to review detailed documentation, but also have first-hand knowledge of Sanford and Lee County, Womack said.

"I'd like to have a local group that can tell us what does and doesn't make sense," he said.

The commissioners should have no problem reviewing the applications, resumes and biographies, Womack said, but interviews could be arranged if needed.

Former EAB Chairman Brooks Gage said she, along with other former board members, was still surprised and disappointed by the commissioners' choice to disband the Environmental Affairs Board.

"We were perfectly able to function alongside these new members with certain kinds of expertise, and probably made their jobs a little bit easier," she said. "I wanted it to be clear we were not a board with an activist agenda."

The EAB was supportive of moving forward with responsible drilling, Gage said, adding that she's not sure whether "a different message got out." The board met with several people with varying views on hydraulic fracturing, she said, but the EAB only wanted to be an advocate at the community level.

Gage said she is not considering applying to the new committee, but that she will remain active in the community.

Applications are available at the Lee County Government Center, located at 106 Hillcrest Drive, or online