SC

SCDHEC Backlog No Longer Piling Up

BUT CAN THIS SPRAWLING BUREAUCRACY CLEAR ITS PERMITTING PLATE? Officials at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) have stopped the bleeding when it comes to a massive backlog of expired environmental permits.  But how much progress are they making when it comes to reducing the pile of…

BUT CAN THIS SPRAWLING BUREAUCRACY CLEAR ITS PERMITTING PLATE?

Officials at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) have stopped the bleeding when it comes to a massive backlog of expired environmental permits.  But how much progress are they making when it comes to reducing the pile of paperwork sitting on their desks?

Sources near the top of this massive bureaucracy tell FITS that the agency’s new director Catherine Templeton (who reportedly “hit the roof” when she first learned of the backlog) is working aggressively to reduce the pile.  Of course she’s not going fast enough for some of her critics, including one who accused the agency of “sitting on its hands” this week in response to this “monumental problem.”

FITS broke the news of the SCDHEC backlog in August.  The story has since been picked up by numerous mainstream media outlets.

Here’s a graphic representation of just one part of this backlog (land application permits) provided by a critic of the agency …

(Click to enlarge)

Obviously SCDHEC issues all sorts of permits – air, land, water (including the most infamous permit ever, which was issued prior to Templeton’s arrival).  At one point, we’re told that the agency’s permitting backlog totaled more than 500 cases.

Templeton took over SCDHEC in March of 2012 after a stint as director of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (SCLLR).  This website was one of her most aggressive critics at SCLLR, however we’ve been impressed with her performance thus far at SCDHEC.  We wish she were a bit more aggressive in reducing the agency’s bureaucracy – and in pushing for structural reforms across state government (the Palmetto State has far too many health and environmental bureaucracies) – but to her credit she’s been trying to cut costs and locate efficiencies within her own house.

Also comprehensive restructuring across agency lines isn’t really Templeton’s job – it’s Nikki Haley’s, and the governor has clearly passed on that responsibility.

Nonetheless, not everyone is sold on Templeton’s abilities.

“Your agency’s trend lines do not look promising – please advise and detail what steps you are taking to reduce this backlog of permits,” one critic wrote in an email to Templeton that was copied to FITS.

Agency officials didn’t confirm the critic’s data, but they didn’t dispute it either.  They said that the backlog – which began accumulating under the previous SCDHEC administration – was identified and arrested by Templeton, and that steady progress is being made in reducing the pile.

“We aren’t rushing through for the sake of rushing,” our source says. “You’ll recall Templeton is the one who identified this growing backlog – which is no longer growing.  And last time I checked, November is not the end of the year.”

That’s true …

Templeton inherited a large agency, one which – like the vast majority of South Carolina’s corrupt, incompetent government – was doing “less with more.”  How well (and how quickly) she addresses this pile of expired permits will be one metric in determining whether she can get SCDHEC to do “more with less.”

***

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12 comments

? November 29, 2012 at 8:32 am

““Your agency’s trend lines do not look promising – please advise and detail what steps you are taking to reduce this backlog of permits,” one critic wrote in an email to Templeton that was copied to FITS.”

So was this “critic” a pol trying to use you as a hammer for some purpose, a concerned citizens, or someone waiting for a permit approval?

lol

Reply
sam November 29, 2012 at 9:46 am

This is just so much horseshit. Federal permits which are requested to be renewed in a timely manner are considered legally in effect until the paperwork is done. New projects to be constructed and create new jobs and new capital are given the priority. Since there are half as many permit writers now as there were five years ago, the itchy dog gets the scratch.

Thunder Thighs Templeton needs to concentrate on obesity and quit trying to make other people look bad because she and her inexperienced and ignorant minions are screwing the pooch.

Reply
@BozMartin November 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

You know you want her, Mr. Crankypants.

Reply
sweepin November 29, 2012 at 10:18 am

As a technical trader, it’s interesting to note that having trended higher for some years, an acceleration move to the upside in expired permits began in 2005 and went even more steeply vertical beginning in 2007.

Will we get a “blow-off” soon (no pun intended)? Or simply, more politics as usual?

Reply
Dirty Water November 29, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Exactly. What happened or changed then, roughly 2006?

Reply
Waterfront commentator November 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Real estate developers and polluting industries know that DHEC permits and penalties can be manipulated with phone calls to

#1 The Governor;
#2 The DHEC Executive Director; or
#3 DHEC Board Members (see below, from DHEC’s website).

My favorite example of DHEC corruption goes back to Gov. Carroll Campbell (1987 – 1995) and Norris B. Mcfarlane, owner of the now-defunct chrome-processing steel mill on Shipyard Creek, Macalloy.

Macalloy, formerly Airco Alloys, went into bankruptcy in 1986 and had been assessed millions of dollars in EPA and DHEC penalties for creating a “superfund” site out of its 200-acre facility. Chromite ore (origin: Turkey and Albania), which my company discharged from vessels and stored in “surge piles” at Macalloy, had washed into and polluted the aquifer.

Norris conducted a creditors’ meeting that I attended wherein he openly (and at length) discussed campaign contributions to then-Gov. Campbell to encourage Campbell to make the DHEC penalties “go away.” The creditors’ committee (secured and unsecured creditors) heard Norris talk “big money” — $100,000 — was shocked and refused to participate considering it unethical, if not unlawful.

Shortly thereafter the Charleston Post and Courier published a short article about Mcfarlane and other Macalloy executives and their families contributing, collectively, exactly $100,000 to Campbell’s political campaign account.

Within one year, the Post and Courier published another short article about DHEC dismissing the multi-million-dollar penalty it had assessed against Macalloy. DHEC’s explanation was so far-fetched and feeble that it was laughable.

This was a complete betrayal of the citizens of South Carolina by our Governor, who simply instructed DHEC to “wipe clean” the file on Macalloy.

But the EPA penalties stuck, and the federal government cleaned up the site over the next five years at a cost of $7 million.

Norris Mcfarlane and Carroll Campbell are long gone, but nothing has changed at DHEC, where anything can be bought for the right money paid, most effectively, to the governor.

~~~~~

DHEC’s Board Members

Chairman and Member-at-large — Allen Amsler
1st District — Mark Lutz
2nd District — Robert Kenyon Wells
4th District — L. Clarence Batts, Jr.
5th District — Ann B. Kirol, DDS
6th District — John O. Hutto, Sr., MD

Responsibilities:

Appoints the agency commissioner;
Provides policy guidance and oversight;
Approves regulations;
Hears appeals of regulatory decisions made by staff; and
In general, oversees the agency’s work and operations.
For a complete description of the board’s legal authority and makeup, see the S.C. Code of Laws, Section 44-1-20.

Reply
Mojo Nixon Esquire Budweiser Junior III November 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Here’s an idea: spend $400,000 for people to do your job for you. What? She’s done that already? My bad…

Reply
dirty_dhec November 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Understand what “LAND APPLICATION” is – this program allows human shit be spread on farm land.

Google “sludge” for more information.

DHEC is a sneaky bunch – they left these permits in expired status, cause the poor saps that live next to these fields are having fits (sorry will).

By renewing the permits through normal permit renewal process, the public would rip dhec a new asshole.

And that is precisely why so many of these permits remain in expired status….

Reply
Dirty Water November 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm

“DHEC is a sneaky bunch – they left these permits in expired status, cause the poor saps that live next to these fields are having fits (sorry will).”

“By renewing the permits through normal permit renewal process, the public would rip dhec a new asshole.”
……………

That is exactly correct. Many permits were not renewed because the operations are known or suspected to be failing and repermitting explicitly allows public involvement and citizen questions and objections. Repermitting also should involve a reassessment of the operation and the permitting officials sure didn’t want to look to closely into that.

The situation and the mismanagement that caused it are a disgrace. Ms. Templeton most definitely has her hands full in trying to correct years of dysfunctional management in the DHEC Bureau of Water.

Reply
Radiator November 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Staff members and friends, safely at home, can say that in two years Catherine’s put on 25 extra pounds — mostly in her hips and hefty legs.

Reply
shifty henry November 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm

These are interesting allegations. In my past dealings with DHEC I worked with them on different issues. Very interesting comments. How in the hell do they get away with this sort of crap? Tell me more………

Reply
hum_dinger November 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

State law needs to be changed.

If a permit is not renewed within a 6 month timeframe from the actual permit expiration date, then all operations must cease until permit can go through normal renewal process and procedures.

Simple, elegant solution to the problem at hand.

When implimented, every single permit in the backlog queue gets an automatic 6 month waiver/grace period.

And when the 6 months is up and it is still not through the normal renewal process, then the permit is cancelled and a new permit application must be sought by permit holder.

Reply

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