Polluters In South Carolina Are About To Get A Huge Boost From The State House

For the past 65 years, if someone — or some company — was illegally polluting in South Carolina, you could sue. The law was put on the books so that if South Carolina’s enforcement agencies didn’t have the time, money, or political backing to go after a polluter, the average citizen could step in.

Now, with only a month left in its 2015-2016 session, the South Carolina legislature has picked up a bill that would do away with this ability.

“No one in the public of South Carolina is calling for the repeal of their rights to protect their communities and clean water,” Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) says. “Instead, this is an example of the lobbyists for corporate polluters controlling politicians who will take away the rights of citizens in order to curry favor with major campaign contributors.”

Holleman understands what is at stake here perhaps more than most. In early 2012, SELC filed a suit on behalf of a local water protection group, the Catawba Riverkeeper, against South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) over coal ash pollution in the Wateree River, near Columbia.

“Of those that are for it, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who wants to talk about being for it. They don’t like it; they don’t want to be for it; they recognize the wisdom of our position,” State Rep. James Smith, who opposes the bill said. “Behind the scenes it appears that there are quite powerful forces behind it.”

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