South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Opinion: Tom Rice ill-informed about International Drive in Carolina Forest
July 20th, 2015


Re July 17 letter to editor, “International Drive another badly needed project delayed,” by Rep. Tom Rice.

Rice’s complaints about the delay of the permit to pave International Drive are disturbing on many levels.

1) Rice makes multiple, exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims concerning “thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.” Given the current unemployment in the area, it is irresponsible to give false hope by creating these numbers out of thin air.

2) Rice incorrectly states that environmental groups were singularly responsible for the delay in constructing the International Drive extension because of bear crossings. In truth, the original plan agreed upon in 2010 by government, business and environmentalists included multiple bear crossings and fencing to prevent the bears from entering the road.

Horry County – not environmental groups -- changed the design to eliminate the crossings and fencing, which protect both bears and motorists. If the county had not unilaterally reneged on the crossings, the appeal would not have been filed. To call the Coastal Conservation League and South Carolina Environmental Law Project “obstructionists” is reprehensible, given the facts.

3) By vilifying local environmentalists, Rice shows his desire to prevent citizen groups from protecting the public interest. Ideally, our governmental representatives would support the public’s interests. But in the real world, citizen groups must continually keep watch to assure that government agencies, such as DHEC, adhere to laws protecting the public.

4) Rice forgets that as a U.S. congressman he represents all the people in his district - even the environmentalists. To demonize constituents as “radical” and “obstructionists” does not promote democratic values and exposes him as an anti-environmentalist. He claims to love the outdoors - until a buck can be made or saved by trampling on it.

As America is struggling to bring the American Dream within the grasp of more people and to be more inclusive of all this country’s citizens, we need leaders with a vision to create jobs and improve the quality of life for all (not just for investors) by promoting sustainability.

We can no longer allow ill-informed politicians beholden to business to dismiss the concerns of citizens who value our environment.

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