Sen. Jim DeMint (R-Fresno by way of South Carolina) is concerned about California farmers who will face months without irrigation water from the San Joaquin Delta because of environmental concerns about endangered salmon and smelt. Earlier this week, the senator failed to delay plans to shut off the water at the end of the year. The effort surprised California's two senators, who voted against DeMint.
It's hard to parse his motives in meddling in an issue on the other side of the country. DeMint says it's a national issue because the plight of these California farmers could impact food prices nationwide. It doesn't hurt that the issue has also sparked fresh outrage from right-wing trendsetters like Sean Hannity.
But DeMint did bring this back around to the Palmetto State, saying that South Carolina is also at the mercy of meddling do-gooders.
"Environmentalists have really swung the balance away from good economy and jobs to something that seems much more radical to us — the development of our port in South Carolina, the passage of ships. And you see development all over the country being affected."
The senator is likely referring to the legal challenge to Port of Charleston expansion plans by the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Environmental Law Center over traffic and environmental concerns. The state Supreme Court announced earlier this month that it would hear a permit appeal from the environmental groups.
CCL Executive Director Dana Beach says this is about a clean Lowcountry facility, not Washington politics.
"Sen. DeMint appears to believe that in order to be competitive, the Port of Charleston should operate one of the dirtiest facilities in the country," Beach says. "Evidence across the country proves that ports do not have to harm public health and the environment to be economically successful."