Attorney Stan Barnett pic

Attorney Stan Barnett presented a summary of a proposed mining ordinance for Williamsburg County Council’s review during a June 18, public hearing. The ordinance is directed at the RDA mine to be constructed in the Earles Community. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) notified residents of its decisions to allow a mine operating permit and an air permit for the RDA Mine by mail.

Photo by Michaele Duke

Williamsburg County Council passed third and final reading of an ordinance that will make it possible to challenge the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) mine permit. Council retained Stan Barnett as legal counsel to oversee the language of the ordinance. The ordinance was written in response to a RDA limestone mine to be constructed in the Earles Community. Council also voted and passed first reading on two separate ordinances to provide for regulation of mining operations and for regulation of blasting and ground water withdrawal.

RDA, LLC purchased 968.40 acres to locate the limestone quarry at Jump and Run Road and Seaboard Road, which is in Williamsburg County. American Materials Company, LLC, a subsidy of Summit Materials, will manage the actual quarry operation. The Mine Operating Permit and the Air Quality Construction Permit were issued on March 25.

Barnett argued that DHEC officials do not take into consideration hours of operation, land use conflicts and traffic and noise impacts, when reviewing a mining application. The ordinance addresses those issues as well as several others. “This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen come out of DHEC,” said Barnett. He said going by the information provided to them, if RDA is allowed to do what they plan to do, it will dry up 350 acres of wetlands, including swamps and would cause a significant adverse affect on the wildlife and marine life.

Barnett read a portion of the agency’s response,  “The environment surrounding the RDA site is rural or undeveloped and offers plenty of opportunity for temporarily displaced fauna to live until the site is reclaimed as a lake or grassland.” Barnett said in other words, when it came to a mine, DHEC is perfectly ok with destroying hundreds of acres of wetlands, “Because they say, well, there are other places for these little critters to go.” Barnett claimed it is the most inconsistent position he has ever seen. “DHEC is hard over about letting anybody impact the wetlands at all because of how important they are,” he said. “But you see the difference? When it’s a mine, everything is ok.”

Councilman Eddie Woods questioned Barnett’s remark. “How do you surmise that DHEC all of a sudden do a flip flop on this mine? What would cause them to do that,” he asked. Barnett said the Earles mine isn’t the only one and the permitting process falls under the Mining Council. ‘They approach mining permits differently than anything else they do.”  He said other groups have filed similar challenges.

Barnett said DHEC officials claim the county does not have legal standing to challenge their issuance of a mining permit. “That is breathtaking,” he said, adding. “The notion that you don’t have legal standing to go in and challenge their issuance of a mining permit is strange.”  

The News contacted DHEC via email regarding Barnett’s statement. Laura Renwick Public Information Officer Media Relations responded saying, “Any affected person may submit a written request for final review of a staff decision, such as the issuance of a permit, within 15 calendar days after notice of the staff decision has been mailed to the applicant or permittee.” Renwick went on to say DHEC is required by law to permit activities that meet all applicable federal and state regulations. The conditions of the permit may be influenced by public comments. DHEC has conducted in-depth reviews of the permit applications and considered in detail numerous public comments as part of this process, and on March 25, the agency issued RDA’s mine operating permit and air quality permit. The approved permits, maps, and other information can be viewed at https://www.scdhec.gov/rda-mine-quarry.

Correction

The News reported an inaccuracy in the June 26, article “County takes steps to challenge limestone quarry permit.” It was reported county council passed third and final reading of an ordinance. However, council gave third reading to a Moratorium Ordinance which would bar issuance of a building permit or any structure associated with a mine for six months while council studies the option of an act of their own mining ordinance. The moratorium will expire when either council adopts the ordinance or votes it down.  The News regrets any confusion this may have caused.