Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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This issue in this case centered on proposed renovations to the overcrowded Chapin High School, which required filling in a portion of a stream on its property.  District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties received a water quality certification (WQC) from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), authorizing the project and allowing the District to fill the approved portion of the stream.  The Administrative Law Court (ALC) affirmed the certification, and Appellant Kim Murphy appealed, arguing the ALC erred in determining that the vicinity of the project included the area surrounding the proposed fill, failied to find that the project would damage the surrounding ecosystem, and found no feasible alternatives to the proposed project. She also alleged DHEC impermissibly abdicated its decision-making authority to the District.  Upon review, the Supreme Court found no error in the ALC's analysis or in DHEC's evaluation of the project and accordingly affirmed those decisions. View "Murphy v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (League) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) appealed an administrative law judge's (ALJ) order that allowed Respondent Kiawah Development Partners to construct erosion control devices in a critical zone on Captain Sam's Spit (Spit). Respondent owend a peninsula (Spit) which lies primarily south of Kiawah Island, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, Kiawah River and Captain Sam's Inlet which separates the Spit from Seabrook Island. For the past sixty years, the Spit has been "growing," accreting sand on the ocean side at a greater rate than it has been losing ground to erosion on the river side. Respondent leased oceanfront property near the neck to the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, which operates Beachwalker Park there. Respondent sought a permit from DHEC to erect a 2,783 foot bulkhead/revetment combination along the Kiawah River, with the structure to begin at the neck, that is, at Beachwalker Park. DHEC authorized construction of the proposed erosion control device for 270 feet, beginning at Beachwalker Park, and denied the remaining portion of the request. Both the League and Respondent requested a contested case hearing before the ALJ, the League to protest the portion of the permit request which was granted, and Respondent to challenge the portion denied. The Appellants contended the ALJ failed to give the deference due DHEC's interpretation of the statutes and regulations, and further that he exceeded his authority in rewriting the permit, resulting in one with terms neither approved by DHEC nor sought by Respondent. Upon review of the ALJ's ruling and the applicable legal standards, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding the ALJ's decision was "affected by numerous errors of law … beginning with the ALJ's misunderstanding of the applicable statutes, regulations, and public policies, and concluding with his erroneous effort to craft a new permit, one which has never been sought by respondent, nor reviewed by OCRM, and which he, in any case, lack[ed] the authority to issue." View "Kiawah Development v. So. Car. Dept. of Health & Environ. Cont." on Justia Law

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Appellant Georgetown County League of Women Voters appealed an order that dismissed its action that sought a declaration that Respondent Smith Land Company had unlawfully filled wetlands and dismissed its request for an injunction requiring Smith to restore those wetlands. Respondent owns a .332 acre lot in Pawleys Island, .19 acres of which are isolated wetlands often referred to as Carolina Bays. Before developing the lot, Respondent notified both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) of its plans. While the Corps cautioned respondent to notify DHEC before performing the work and respondent did so, it received no response from DHEC. Respondent then filled the wetlands. The League then filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment and related equitable relief. After a hearing, the circuit court held that DHEC did not have jurisdiction over isolated wetlands, that Respondent complied with all requirements before filling the wetlands, and that the League could not maintain a private suit under the South Carolina Pollution Control Act. Finding that the circuit court erred in holding that: (1) the DHEC lacked jurisdiction to regulate the wetlands; (2) Respondent did not violate the Act; and (3) the Act does not create a private cause of action, the Supreme Court reversed the reversed the case and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Georgetown County League of Women Voters v. Smith Land Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League appealed a final order of the Administrative Law Court (ALC) that granted Respondent Jerry Risher's "critical area permit" application to construct a bridge over a portion of wetlands contained within his property on Fripp Island. Respondent owns less than a half-acre, half of which is "upland high ground" or build-able property. The remainder of the property partially surrounds the build-able portion and is composed of wetlands. One year prior to Respondent's purchase of the lot, his predecessor in title applied to the DHEC and was approved for a critical area permit to construct a vehicular bridge across the non-build-able wetland portion of the lot to connect with the nearest vehicular road. In 2006, Respondent began to construct a bridge similar to the one previously submitted and approved by his predecessor in title. To that end, Respondent submitted a permit application to OCRM. OCRM took the matter under advisement but ultimately denied Respondent's application based on its finding that the upland build-able portion of the lot qualified as a coastal island which was too small to allow bridge access. After exhausting DHEC's review options, Respondent filed a request for review by the ALC. A hearing was held, and the ALC issued an order reversing DHEC's denial of Respondent's permit request. DHEC appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that there was insufficient evidence before the ALC to reverse its decision. Upon review of the briefs submitted and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court found substantial evidence sufficient to support the ALC's decision. The Court affirmed the ALC's decision in support of Respondent. View "Risher v. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control " on Justia Law