Press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources: RALEIGH – Paul M. Newby, associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, officiated at a ceremony Friday swearing in Donald R. van der Vaart as the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s new secretary. The ceremony took place in the old N.C. House of Representatives chamber in the state capitol. Gov. Pat McCrory announced Dec. 23 that van der Vaart, who was deputy secretary and energy policy advisor for the agency, would succeed John Skvarla, whom McCrory named to lead the N.C. Department of Commerce. Skvarla was sworn into his new post Monday, also by Newby.

“Don van der Vaart possesses extensive knowledge of environmental regulations and will continue DENR’s focus on protecting our environment while helping to maintain the economic resurgence that our state has seen since 2013,” McCrory said when announcing his appointment. “Van der Vaart’s scientific and academic credentials alone are remarkable, but he also has the real-world experience to ensure that North Carolina continues to implement common-sense solutions based on science.”

Van der Vaart was joined for the ceremony by his wife, Sandy, and their two sons as well as DENR employees and representatives from the governor’s office. Van der Vaart was a longtime DENR manager in the department, mostly in the Division of Air Quality, before he was named deputy secretary in August 2014. He has an extensive background in energy, environmental and regulatory work in academia, state government and the private sector.

Before serving as deputy secretary and energy policy advisor, van der Vaart worked as an engineering supervisor and later a program manager for DAQ. He is an adjunct professor in engineering at N.C. State University, where he also teaches environmental policy and law. His previous work includes scientific research at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and at Research Triangle Institute (now RTI International). Van der Vaart has also worked in the energy and utility sectors.

Van der Vaart holds a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge (England), a law degree from North Carolina Central University, a master’s degree in chemical engineering from N.C. State University and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published numerous technical and legal articles and holds two patents.

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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