A basic right of the people of South Carolina is in danger today as a Senate subcommittee takes up a bill of keen interest to environmentalists.
The bill would take away a citizen’s due process rights to challenge a government decision.
It would eliminate what is known as the “automatic stay” that temporarily prevents construction activities when a permit decision is challenged.
The bill (S.105) pokes a finger in the eye of the public in a couple of ways.
In effect, it says to the public: “We don’t care what you think. We’re going to do our damage if we want to, when we want to, and even if our permit is overturned in court, you still lose because the damage to the environment is already done.”
Also, the bill would require the public to put up costly bonds simply to make an appeal. This would be in addition to hundreds of dollars already required simply to file a challenge.
While this legislation could enable great damage, it addresses a problem that does not exist.
The process to challenge a state permit already is tightly regulated. Besides the costly fees to make a challenge, the window of time to file a challenge is tight. And the Administrative Law Court, which can hear the permit challenge, already can throw out frivolous appeals.
Also, a permit holder already has the right to make a motion to dismiss the “automatic stay” when the case is before the Administrative Law Court and be guaranteed a permit hearing within 30 days.
Those who watch this carefully say there is no evidence that the current appeals process has been used to harass permit holders.
On the contrary, the current system serves all parties well by preventing the needless, permanent loss of natural treasures.
It is totally illogical to proceed on a project before due process has run its course. This bill makes no sense, and it needs to be defeated.