By Matt Tomsic
Published Sept. 5, 2012
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is asking to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed against Georgia officials for its project to deepen the Savannah River, according to court filings.
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit in February, arguing the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t get South Carolina permits needed to deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet, which will allow better access to Georgia Ports Authority terminals.
Since February, the case has collected new defendants, including the Georgia Ports Authority and the Savannah River Maritime Commission.
DHEC has asked to intervene, arguing it has a stake in the case because it issues the permits that the plaintiffs are saying the Army Corps needs to complete the project.
“In addition to its interest in the (Pollution Control Act) permit issue, DHEC is directly impacted by the defense raised by (the Georgia Ports Authority) that the 2012 Pollution Control amendments are unconstitutional in part,” according to DHEC’s filing. “And DHEC must defend the constitutionality of the (Pollution Control Act).”
In August, a federal judge assigned a mediator, former congressman John Spratt, to the case.
Spratt represented South Carolina’s fifth congressional district from 1983 to 2011, according to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Spratt lost re-election in 2010 to Rep. Mick Mulvaney.
He also served in the U.S. Army from 1969 through 1971.
“The court regards Mr. Spratt’s prior exemplary service as a member of the leadership of the United States House of Representatives and his understanding of the complex and competing interests in play in this dispute as making him uniquely qualified to serve as the mediator in this matter,” wrote Judge Richard Gergel, who also appointed Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks to assist Spratt.