By Paul Gable
The cries of ecoterrorism seem to be the shrillest when the environmentalist groups have trouble getting what they want.
There was another piece in mainstream media over the weekend crying out about lack of bear tunnels and high fences with regard to the International Drive project.
This came within one week of the decision by a committee of the SCDHEC board voted 3-0 to reject a request for review of the project by the Coastal Conservation League and SC Wildlife Federation. These two environmentalist groups made a last minute appeal July 10, 2015 to stop SCDHEC and the US Army of Corps of Engineers from issuing permits that would have allowed construction on International Drive to go forward.
After a discussion of how political pressure apparently influenced the SC Department of Natural Resources to drop an earlier requirement to include three bear crossing tunnels and higher fences in the International Drive project, the following statement is made about a 2013 agreement between Horry County and SCDNR about the project:
“Horry County also agreed to pay the natural resources agency $122,210, the 2013 agreement shows.”
The inference here is that Horry County paid SCDNR to drop its requirements. Actually, Horry County paid SCDNR the money for a right of way on SCDNR property along the International Drive route. The inference was even stronger in earlier statements and op-ed pieces by staff of the SC Coastal Conservation League.
Apparently the Coastal Conservation League will attempt to stifle the International Drive project until it exhausts every possible delaying tactic.
Recently, I wrote about a Memorandum of Agreement between the SC Department of Commerce and the Coastal Conservation League that stated $4.75 million would be paid into a trust account “to satisfy compensatory mitigation required by the Corps and to fulfill the terms of this Agreement…”
The agreement was for the CCL and other environmental groups not to challenge or delay the construction of what would become the Boeing plant in the Charleston area. The $4.75 million was part of a state bond issue for the project. It is being paid back with public tax dollars.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, I have a copy of another agreement which the CCL is a party to. This one is titled “Cooperative Agreement and Contract for Intent to Purchase”. The parties to the agreement are the SC Coastal Conservation League, Lowcountry Open Land Trust and the SC State Ports Authority.
The project referred to in the agreement is the dredging of Charleston harbor to a depth of 52 feet so the port can handle the newest and largest ocean transport ships.
In this agreement, “the SCSPA agrees to fund an escrow account in the amount of five million dollars ($5,000,000).”
“All available funds from the escrow account must be utilized for options on real property, closing, and purchase of real property or the acquisition of conservation easements on the real property and associated administrative and management costs … including administrative staffing costs and expenses).”
Another five million public dollars are paid into an escrow account to be used by environmental groups to not only acquire some form of conservation land but to pay staff expenses.
For this payment, another clause in the contract reads, “It is the intent of the Parties to give the broadest release and discharge possible under the law … so that SCSPA, the Corps, DHEC and any and all federal and state authorizing agencies for the Project will not be the subject of any claim or action for approving or authorizing construction of the Project.”
The agreement was signed by James I. Newsome, III, President and CEO of SCSPA, Dana Beach, Executive Director of the SC Coastal Conservation League and Elizabeth Hagood, Executive Director of the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. It is dated 19 December 2014.
In other words, pay us five million dollars, public dollars I would remind you, and we won’t challenge or delay the project.
Don’t give us bear tunnels and we will use any and all methods to delay the project and increase its cost.
It certainly seems it’s not about the environment for the environmental groups. It’s all about the money and getting their way. And it’s not their money anyway – it’s only tax dollars.
Some would call that extortion. I prefer to think of it as modern day ecoterrorism.