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March 1, 2013

SC DHEC chief says she won’t risk health in rules review

Speaking to the S.C. Water Quality Association, Catherine Templeton said she’s run across some suspect regulations since taking control at the Department of Health and Environmental Control one year ago.

South Carolina’s environmental protection chief said Thursday she’s looking to cut unneeded regulations that bog down businesses – but not at the expense of public health or the environment.

Speaking to the S.C. Water Quality Association, Catherine Templeton said she’s run across some suspect regulations since taking control at the Department of Health and Environmental Control one year ago.

The agency, however, wants to learn more, she said. DHEC will seek public input this month on which rules should be done away with. The agency plans forums March 11 in Greenville, March 12 in Columbia and March 13 in North Charleston.

“We’re going to hear from the public about what it is that we’re making people do but (where the rules) don’t protect the health and the environment – they just perpetuate some bureaucracy,” Templeton said at the meeting in Columbia.

Templeton made her remarks the same week her agency sent out an email seeking public comments on rules, regulations or policies “that may unduly burden businesses or employees.”

The reform effort has some environmentalists nervous. The Catawba Riverkeeper posted a Facebook message Thursday encouraging members to submit comments to DHEC supporting the need for environmental regulations.

“Sometimes regulatory reform is code for getting rid of all regulations,” Catawba Riverkeeper Rick Gaskins said, noting that South Carolina needs to beef up some regulations.

Among those are rules to protect rivers from sewage sludge and other contaminants that send bacteria levels soaring, he said. The Catawba Riverkeeper monitors water quality along the river that in South Carolina stretches from near Rock Hill to Lake Wateree and the Wateree River near Camden.

Templeton said after the meeting that she won’t seek to eliminate rules just because someone doesn’t like them. The question, she said, is: “What do we need to be doing to protect, versus what are we doing just because it is bureaucratic and we’ve always been doing it.”

DHEC, which administers thousands of environmental and health rules, is one of the primary agencies targeted in Gov. Nikki Haley’s push to eliminate red tape that hurts businesses.

Haley, elected on an efficiency and pro-jobs agenda in 2010, wants state agency heads to report in May on how they would reduce bureaucratic rules.

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