The state’s top environmental regulator is getting an award from an industry group whose members need pollution permits to operate manufacturing plants.
Catherine Templeton, director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, will receive the S.C. Manufacturers’ Alliance award for supporting the industry.
The S.C. Manufacturers Alliance is one of the state’s most prominent and influential business groups, representing many of the state’s major industries, such as the Milliken textile corporation.
DHEC, charged with protecting the environment and public health, decides on permits industries need to release certain levels of pollution into the air and water. It also fines companies that break environmental laws.
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According to a DHEC news release, Templeton will be recognized Thursday night at a dinner in Spartanburg.
The award she is receiving was established in 2006 to recognize those who have worked to “advance the manufacturing industry in South Carolina,” the release said. The award is called the “Roger Milliken Defender of Manufacturing Award.” It is named after the late textile tycoon.
DHEC’s news release did not say how Templeton has helped manufacturers, but she previously worked with alliance chief Lewis Gossett, a former head of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Templeton, who also once headed the labor agency, works closely, too, with Gov. Nikki Haley, who has said she wants DHEC to be more business friendly.
Environmental lawyer Amy Armstrong, who represents clients that oppose permits for businesses, called the award “curious.” State Sierra Club leader Susan Corbett questioned why manufacturers felt compelled to recognize the head of an environmental agency.
“It does seem a bit odd,” Corbett said. “It’s almost like they are applauding her for not being too hard on them.”
But the manufacturer’s alliance said the award isn’t being given because of any DHEC favors to industry.
“It really is a function of helping to create a reasonable regulatory environment, where manufacturing can be successful,” Gossett said, noting that the DHEC permitting process is more efficient under Templeton.
Gossett said he did not vote on the award. The alliance’s executive committee was in charge of that, he said.
DHEC spokesman Mark Plowden said getting award from a business group is no different than if Templeton received a “Green Tie” award from the Conservation Voters of South Carolina.
“Director Templeton is humbled by her selection for the SCMA award, as she would be if awarded the Green Tie Award, for example,” Plowden said in an email. “She will accept the award in person.”