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Former NC Environment Chief Van Der Vaart Named Chief Administrative Judge

donald van der vaart
N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts
Donald van der Vaart

North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby has appointed former state Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart as the state's new chief administrative law judge.

Van der Vaart also will run the Office of Administrative Hearings. That office oversees administrative rulemaking and hears appeals of state regulatory decisions.

Van der Vaart currently serves on the state Environmental Management Commission. He has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Cambridge University and a law degree from North Carolina Central University.

Newby called him "a multi-disciplined expert who has accumulated a vast amount of experience in regulatory, legal, and administrative operations."

A Republican, van der Vaart led the Department of Environmental Quality in 2015 and 2016. After Democrat Roy Cooper was elected governor, Van der Vaart demoted himself and a colleague to staff positions so they could keep jobs with DEQ.

He resigned from NCDEQ in 2017 after the agency put him on leave amid an investigation. Van der Vaart wrote an article in an environmental legal journal arguing for the repeal of an air quality regulation — a position that contradicted state policy. And he accepted an appointment to a scientific advisory board put together by the Trump administration.

At the time, van der Vaart complained that the DEQ had moved to "stifle my contributions to scientific and legal discourse in professional journals." And he said he was never warned that serving on the EPA scientific advisory panel was off limits.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.