"We just don't have the great kind of geology and the shallow enough water."
College of Charleston geologist Cassandra Runyon expressing her doubt that there's petroleum worth drilling for off the South Carolina coast — political positioning be damned. Source: The Associated Press
Mercury: What, Me Worry?
Despite DHEC warnings along 1,747 miles of South Carolina rivers about the dangers of eating mercury-laden fish, Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter wrote an editorial last week, published in several state newspapers, stating that the health of S.C. citizens is not in danger. "The bottom line is that S.C. waters and fish are safe," states the power utility's new website, TheRealStoryOnMercury.com. The state-owned utility is hoping to receive approval for a $1.25 billion coal plant on the Great Pee Dee River, including a permit to release 114 pounds of mercury into the air each year. A shift in federal law required Santee Cooper to revise their mercury controls earlier this spring, and they recently announced 114 pounds as their maximum achievable reduction. Conservation groups cite a newly approved plant in Virginia that burns as much coal as the Pee Dee plant but releases only five pounds per year as evidence that the utility hasn't fulfilled the requirement, subsequently calling on Carter to rescind his comments. "This is one of the most irresponsible things I've heard in a while. The law states that you have to at least be as good as the best performing source," says John Suttles, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "You'd think that in an area with an existing mercury problem and being a state-owned utility, they would beat it." Laura Varn, spokesperson for Santee Cooper, says the mercury reductions in Virginia are possible because it will burn waste coal, an option ruled out in S.C. because of limited supply, the additional quantities that would have to be shipped to the state, and the need to landfill much of the waste product. Suttles argues that waste coal is actually far dirtier when burned, and the Virginia plant's advanced pollution controls allow the reduction. Activated carbon injection, a mercury-specific control technique used at the Virginia plant but not planned for the Pee Dee site, would have cost $118,000 per pound reduction, says Varn, making it cost-prohibitive. "There's a perception out there that all the fish in our rivers are toxic, and that it's a result of a power plant that's not even built yet," says Varn. "We're not saying 'Ignore the DHEC warnings,' but people need to know what the facts really are and put them in the proper perspective." —Stratton Lawrence
One More Reason for Last Call Binge
Folly Beach City Council voted last Tuesday to prohibit alcohol sales between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., potentially ending the post-bar closing beer runs that many Folly residents have enjoyed. Despite 1,400 signatures opposing the bill gathered between the first reading in June and last Tuesday's vote, council voted 5-2 for the measure, with only Mayor Carl Beckman and Eddie Ellis opposing. Laura Beck, who had previously voted against the bill, crossed sides to approve it. Following the meeting, Beck requested that Council reconsider her vote and take up the issue again on August 24. Bert's Market and the Kangaroo convenience store are the only two businesses that sell alcohol after 2 a.m. Bert's halted alcohol sales on Tuesday night, and owner Bert Hastings says it cost them $600. They're selling alcohol around the clock again until the issue is settled (see photo). Hastings says if it becomes official law, they'll stay open for a period of time, but may have to drop their "We may doze, but we never close" motto if staying open all night is not profitable without alcohol sales. Councilman Ellis has requested the opinion of the state Attorney General on the legality of the law. "This is far from over," says Councilman Ellis. "Local government does not have the authority to usurp the state constitution." —Stratton Lawrence
That's how much money the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Charleston County last week in a grant to improve community environmental health. The EPA's Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program is intended to create local partnerships that implement solutions for reducing and minimizing human exposure to toxic pollutants. Source: Charleston County
School Board Says "Bitch," Please
The Charleston County School Board failed to pass a new policy that would have penalized members for being foul-mouthed grumpy old men.
Last month, The Post and Courier broke a story about board member Arthur Ravenel threatening the job of Superintendent Nancy McGinley and claiming that he'd "gotten rid of one bitch" (former Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson) and he'd get rid of another.
The board claimed to have addressed the issue behind closed doors, but a community outcry led to the proposed policy for civility in discussing district matters, with penalties including a public reprimand and potential removal from office.
In a now typical 4-4 split, the board could not pass the new rules, and they'll be sent back to committee for consideration.
Board Vice Chairwoman Nancy Cook voted against the measure because she said she didn't feel like her brother's keeper.
"I can't imagine any board initiating removal from office," she said. "That's for voters to decide."
Ravenel, who also voted against the new rules, continued to defend his actions.
"This is political, feel-good stuff," he said. "I think it's a little silly." —Greg Hambrick
Hello Dolly, Goodbye Creative Headlines
While every other media outlet was figuring out how to incorporate a Broadway musical into news headlines on Hurricane Dolly, we were crunching the numbers on just what we can expect over the next few months. A look at the past three seasons suggests this year is already ahead of 2006 and 2007.
Dolly reached hurricane strength on July 23, battering the Texas coast. Last year, it was another three weeks (Aug. 16) before the fourth named storm became a hurricane. In '06, it took Debby until Aug. 22 to pop up. But, in the busy 2005 season that brought Katrina, the Atlantic was facing its seventh named storm as of July 23. So, on a scale of good to bad (using the Batman movies) — we're at threat level Batman Forever. —Greg Hambrick
That's the number of coastal South Carolina residents who say they'd stay through a serious hurricane. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned about getting the gas needed to evacuate. Source: The Harvard School of Public Health
This Green Party Can Actually Win
Mayor Joe Riley joined the Charleston City Paper and EverGreen Concepts this week to announce the Charleston Green Fair, a day-long event to be held in Marion Square on Sun., Sept. 28. The event will include booths for green-minded businesses and nonprofits, live music, speakers and presentations, a beer and wine garden, and a kid's area with a rock wall and activities from local environmental education programs. Green Fair aims to recycle 95 percent of supplies and products, and "Resource Recovery Stations" will educate attendees on composting, bioware and recyclables. On Thurs., Sept. 25, a "Green Gala" at the S.C. Aquarium will precede the event, raising money for Lowcountry EarthForce and the Sustainable Seafood Initiative. "The city's sponsorship is a further effort on our part to allow our citizens to find ways that individually they can combat global warming and reduce their carbon imprint," Riley said. "This Green Fair will allow thousands of people in our community to become better stewards of the environment, and it's going to be fun." Sponsors currently signed on include Whole Foods and Santee Cooper, the marquee sponsor of the "Energy and Transportation" area. They're donating 500,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to their customers, which should help burn a little less of the "clean coal" the utility's been touting. —Stratton Lawrence
For more info or to volunteer to help with the Green Fair, visit www.CharlestonGreenFair.com
That's how many hours James Heyward camped out on the sidewalk for the Apple store's Saturday grand opening. The new store at 301 King St. will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mon. through Wed., and will close at 9 p.m. Thurs. through Sat.
Platt to Make Ballot Challenge
Eugene Platt, the Democratic candidate for S.C. House District 115 who lost in June, is moving forward with a challenge to the state's law that prevents a losing primary candidate from appearing again on the November ballot. Prior to the June race, Platt had secured the nomination of the Green Party, hoping his name would be appearing on the November ballot twice.
Democrat Anne Peterson-Hutto's win cut those hopes down to one — then a state law that prohibits a losing candidate from courting the nomination of another party eliminated his shot at being placed on the ballot as the Green candidate.
The ACLU is said to be seriously considering Platt's case this week, potentially arguing that Platt's supporters and Green Party members are losing their right to vote for their preferred candidate.
Meanwhile, Platt continues to try and beat back assertions that he'll play a spoiler candidate in what's destined to be a close race. Republican Wallace Scarborough defended his House seat against Platt's Democratic challenge in 2006 by a mere 40 votes. Platt said he had one supporter mail him an old campaign T-shirt from '06, in evident frustration over his plans to run as the Green candidate. But he argues that he's just giving the voters a third option.
"I'm in the race to win. I'm not a spoiler," says Platt. "If (Peterson-Hutto) wants to win those votes, she's going to have to get out there and earn them." —Greg Hambrick