Tag: Administrative Law Court

Fact Checking the Conservationists on International Drive

In the August 2, 2016 edition of the Sun News, an “Other Voices” letter about the International Drive project, written by Amy Armstrong of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, Dana Beach of the Coastal Conservation League and Ben Gregg of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation (Conservationists), appeared in the Opinion Section .

This letter claims the delays in paving International Drive are not due to Conservation efforts. In that letter, the Conservationists make many pernicious and blatantly false claims. The letter demonstrates that the Conservationists view their readership to be woefully uninformed and gullible to gargantuan proportion. In fact, they may depend on that.

Let’s fact check those claims, based on an Administrative Law Court Ruling issued on July 7 this year and other resources so that a factual voice of our community can be heard.

The letter claims Horry County “reneged” on an earlier contractual agreement and “pressured” DNR to remove their requirement for bear crossings. Law Court: “Petitioners attempted to support the need for bear tunnels based upon the inference that but for the nefarious negotiations between Horry and DNR between 2010 and 2013, the bear tunnel requirement would not have been eliminated from the permit. But Petitioners failed to meet their burden of proof in this respect. As explained above, the change in DNR’s position occurred as a result of a significant decline in the existence of bears in LOB. Furthermore, the director of DNR unequivocally denied that any such underhanded dealings took place between Horry and DNR leading up to the 2013 agreement. The Court found his testimony highly credible and persuasive”.

Public Need and Safety Means Nothing to Coastal Conservation League

The Coastal Conservation League (CCL) continues its objection and delaying tactics regarding the International Drive Paving Project in Horry County, a project direly needed by the residents along the Highway 90 corridor portion of the County.

Early this year, the League, through its legal arm, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), brought a request for contested case hearing before the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. On July 7, Judge Ralph King Anderson rendered his decision in the case. He ruled that CCL failed the burden of proof in every one of at least nine (9) arguments they put before him.

Of greatest importance to the residents, was Judge Anderson’s ruling that: “The proposed road will significantly improve the health and safety of a substantial part of the County’s population by:

allowing quicker access by emergency responders;
• allowing quicker access for them to trauma centers, emergency rooms, and other critical health services; and
• improving firefighting capabilities and hurricane evacuation.”
Yet, despite the Court’s overwhelming repudiation of CCL’s arguments and expression of the public need for this roadway, listen to the response from CCL and their legal team:

Amy Armstrong, SCELP attorney for CCL, in a WPDE interview, “we want him (Judge Anderson) to reconsider.” And if he doesn’t, Armstrong says they’ll appeal again.

Nancy Cave, North Coast Director for CCL, in a televised interview, quote “we expected this decision” This statement begs the question, if you expected to lose in a court of law, why did you bring the case in the first place? Is this what your contributors expect – spending tens of thousands of dollars on a case you have no expectation of winning? If you didn’t expect to win, what is the real motive behind these actions?

Dana Beach, Executive Director of CCL in the Sun News, July 15: “The Judge failed to rule on two key points: the extent to which construction will protect or improve water quality, and whether the project complies with policies on fill material”. Mr. Beach is obviously oblivious to Judge Andersons ruling. “Water quality” is referenced fifty two (52) times in the written decision.

International Drive Court Date Set

The International Drive project will have its day in court beginning February 16, 2016.

The scheduling order came down a few days ago from the Administrative Law Court. Three days have been set to hear the case.

The Administrative Law Court was established by a 1993 state law to allow citizens affected by the decisions of certain state agencies to challenge those actions. Previously, challenges were heard by hearing officers of the respective state agencies.

The lawsuit to be heard by the ALC was filed by the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation. It challenges a decision by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control to issue a water quality permit for construction and paving of International Drive to Hwy 90.

Think about this process for a minute.

The ALC was set up to allow citizens affected by decisions of state agencies to challenge those decisions.

The voters of Horry County passed the Ride II referendum, which listed International Drive as one of the projects on its list, in November 2006.

The citizens most affected by the International Drive project, those of Horry County, especially in the Carolina Forest and Hwy 90 residential areas, approved the construction project by referendum vote.

The Coastal Conservation League, which bills itself as working to protect the natural landscapes, abundant wildlife, clean water and quality of life in South Carolina, is not directly affected by the decision to go forward with International Drive.

In fact, I would submit the continued delaying tactics used by the CCL and its allies on the International Drive project works to reduce the quality of life of the citizens of Carolina Forest and Hwy 90.

International Drive Delays

The International Drive project is now awaiting its day in court.

According to sources familiar with the Administrative Law Court, the contested hearing before Administrative Law Judge Trip Anderson will be held sometime within the next 2-6 months.

Horry County has asked for an early hearing, but, if history on this project tells us anything, the Coastal Conservation League and its conservationist allies will delay as long as possible.

Since the SCDHEC Appeals Committee voted against a final review conference for the International Drive project, Horry County and the conservationists have had two face to face meetings and have exchanged several offers and counteroffers all to no avail.

A protest march before the Coastal Conservation League north coast office in Georgetown last month demonstrated the conservationists do not have public opinion on their side in this contest.

CCL and the SC Wildlife Federation requested a meeting with representatives of the groups that organized the protest, but that will not happen, according to sources familiar with the request.

That is probably a good thing because the typical tactic of the CCL and its allies is ‘divide and conquer.’

They haven’t counted on the determination of the homeowners in the Carolina Forest and Hwy 90 areas that will be helped by the construction of International Drive nor their unity in supporting the project.

In the filing to the ALC, the CCL and SCWF questioned whether there was a valid need for the road. They attempted to make a case that widening and other improvements to U.S. 501 are reasonable alternatives to the International Drive project. Those of us who live here know that is a ridiculous assertion.

No Extortion on International Drive

Horry County Council gave a resounding NO to the possibility of giving any money to The Nature Conservancy for extra mitigation on International Drive.

The new request came up during a meeting between Horry County officials and representatives from the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation.

Essentially what was asked for was the county to pay The Nature Conservancy approximately $1.6 million so that agency could purchase land to be used ostensibly for wildlife preservation.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus ended the meeting after the new demand was made.

Lazarus reported on the International Drive project during the regular council meeting Tuesday night. He said he wasn’t going to give money from the taxpayers of Horry County to a private nonprofit organization so it could buy land.

It is probably not something that could legally be done either. International Drive is one of the projects paid for by the one cent local option sales tax (Ride II).

Ride II was approved by referendum of county voters in 2006. At that time, each project with the anticipated expenses associated with it was listed in the referendum. The county has already paid for the mitigation credits required by the US Army Corps of Engineers and SCDHEC for the project.

To expend extra dollars just to please conservation groups for land that is neither associated with the project nor required for mitigation certainly seems to be in conflict with state law on capital projects sales tax.

Ecoterrorism Strikes International Drive

It appears that the International Drive completion has been hit with a type of ecoterrorism by two environmental groups opposed to the project.

As we reported over the weekend, the Coastal Conservation League and South Carolina Wildlife Federation appealed the SCDHEC decision to issue permits for the project at the last possible hour.

This attempt of these two groups to put another obstacle in the way of the International Drive project, which is much needed for traffic relief in the Carolina Forest area, appears to be for no other reason than to further delay, delay, delay.

Consider the following definitions from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Ecoterrorism is defined as sabotage intended to hinder activities that are considered damaging to the environment.

Sabotage is defined as a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity or corporation through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction.

While the form of ecoterrorism we are talking about is not violent, hindering the building (activities) of International Drive by obstruction through the appeal and possibly court process seems to easily fall within the definitions.