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The Office of Environmental Education was created in 1993 to educate the public – and North Carolina youth in particular – about what constitutes the environment that supports us. Several of the department's health agencies were altered to meet public concerns about infant mortality, AIDS, septic tank systems and rabies. Those and other administrative changes between 1990 and 1996 resulted in an increase in Department manpower. Staffing reached 4,650 by 1997. The growing response to environmental problems brought an infusion of money for inspectors, new regulatory powers and a speed-up of the permit processes.
North Carolina’s state parks system received major attention in the mid-1990s. Voters approved a $35 million bond package in 1993 for capital improvements to a deteriorating park system and land purchases to expand some parks. Two years later, the General Assembly for the first time gave the troubled parks system a guaranteed future source of funding – 75 percent of what the state had been taking from the excise tax on real estate tax transfers will now go to support our parks.
As the 1990s dawned, legislators allocated substantial sums of money for programs to clean up the most dangerous of 10,000 underground gasoline storage tanks thought to be leaking at any given time in the state. Some of the state's gasoline tax revenues have been earmarked to help owners clean up tank spills.
By the mid-1990s, the fund was facing a deficit because of the overwhelming costs involved and the large numbers of underground tanks potentially leaking beneath North Carolina's soil. The department also began to respond to new concerns about fish kills, polluted streams and run-off of nitrogen and other substances into rivers and creeks. In 1995 and 1996, animal waste spills into rivers in eastern North Carolina led to a stiffening of waste management requirements; the addition of inspectors to its water quality and its soil and water conservation divisions; and training requirements for farm operators.
Secretaries of Environment and Natural Resources1