The Governor’s failure to put Shawn Garvin, his nominee to be the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), up for a vote in January to the full Delaware Senate has created quite the reaction from some quarters.
Despite incorrect media reports that we gave “no reason” to oppose Mr. Garvin, members of the GOP Senate caucus have numerous concerns about his nomination and how he would run this critically important department. Our decision to not debate this matter in the press was out of deference to the process and our hope for a better conclusion.
DNREC has been a rogue agency for many years, and their failure to properly execute their duties has affected our air, our water and our economy.
From ignoring a judge’s ruling on storm water management regulations, to questionable oversight of Delaware City Refinery oil shipments, to a complete failure to oversee IPC Delaware, DNREC has a lot to answer for. And, to that end, our caucus had a lot of questions for this nominee.
In an effort to address some of these concerns, Mr. Garvin attended a meeting with the Republican Senate caucus at our invitation. Issues that came up included, but were not limited to, the Coastal Zone Act, storm water regulations and litigation related to those regulations, septic tank regulations, Bloom Energy, and recent litigation eliminating 2nd Amendment rights in state parks.
On these specific issues and others, Mr. Garvin came off as uninformed, unaware and/or unwilling to discuss specific questions or policy initiatives that he might pursue as Secretary of the department. It appears that there was an expectation that a quick visit and some bland conversation was all that was needed to win us over. One member noted that this meeting was effectively a job interview and that Mr. Garvin failed it miserably for lack of preparation and candor.
Given the uncertainty of the floor vote, Governor Carney’s administration informed us that Mr. Garvin nomination would not come up for a vote in January. Furthermore, the Governor’s office asked us not ask questions at the Senate Executive Committee meeting, as there were numerous other nominees on the agenda that day.
While we honored that request, I did ask Mr. Garvin if he knew that the DNREC Secretary was a board member with the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU). I further expressed my concern that the governance of the SEU board is fraught with conflicts given that the vast majority of the members are tied to Senator Harris McDowell, also a board member, Chair of the Joint Finance Committee and a “founder” of the SEU. While Mr. Garvin nodded his head, I told him I wasn’t expecting an answer in that forum given our commitment to the Governor’s request to keep it short.
It has been more than two weeks since the caucus meeting and the hearing. Mr. Garvin has not followed up with me, or with most of our caucus, to answer our questions or seek to provide any information about policy objectives or goals. It appears to me that Mr. Garvin and Governor Carney simply expect to get 11 votes and not have to be specific about how they plan to manage DRNREC.
Having worked at the EPA doesn’t immediately qualify or disqualify Mr. Garvin. It is simply another element of his resume that should be taken into consideration in its entirety. Common sense dictates nothing else.
One assumes that Governor Carney is awaiting the outcome of the special election on February 25. If his party wins, one might assume that our questions about policy direction and DNREC’s operations don’t matter.
Win or lose on February 25, our questions and responsibilities will not go away as we were not elected to be rubber stamps. Our air, our water and our economy are too important to simply ignore years of massive failures from DNREC. We hope that Mr. Garvin will honor the hundreds of thousands of Delawareans we represent by providing answers to these critical questions prior to any future vote on his nomination.