Originally created 11/08/97

Beasley: State must balance environment, economy



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Gov. David Beasley told state business leaders Friday that South Carolina must balance protecting the environment with helping the state's economy grow.

"We can't make the same mistakes they made on the West Coast and in the Northeast," the Republican governor told about 250 business leaders at the annual South Carolina Chamber of Commerce summit.

Beasley said that in other regions, environmental resources were lost and then government responded with tough regulations that hurt business.

"We have proven we can balance out business opportunities and protecting our natural environment," Beasley said. "Our business sector leadership clearly understands these objectives."

It was the second time in a week that Beasley, who is expected to formally announce he is running for a second term, has cast himself as a friend of the environment.

On Monday, he announced the purchase of 32,000 acres of wilderness including the Jocassee Gorges in the state's northwestern corner.

With less than a year before the next gubernatorial election, the environment is a win-win issue, said Bill Moore, a political science professor at the College of Charleston. Such issues cut across party and economic lines, he said.

"It makes good sense and it makes good political sense," Moore said.

For instance, Republicans who supported the Contract with America during the 1994 congressional elections found themselves out of step on the environment, he said.

"Generally speaking they found that the American public was strongly supportive of environmental protections," he said.

Moore said there is a perception that South Carolina is a dumping ground for nuclear and chemical waste and "those are not dumps South Carolina touts in terms of selling the state to tourists and the state in general."

Beasley said the Jocassee Gorges purchase shows what government and business working together can do.

The $54 million purchase from Duke Energy Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., was made possible through a combination of corporate, private and state money. Beasley also said companies across the state have made strides in reducing smoke emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency last month targeted South Carolina and 21 other states, including most of the eastern half of the country, to reduce smog-causing pollution.

State officials said that while some reductions may be needed, across-the-board emissions reductions are not required.

Utility spokesmen said, for instance, that state-owned electric and water utility Santee Cooper has upgraded to newer burners at coal-burning plants that significantly reduce emissions. South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. has spent $70 million over three years upgrading its units.

In some quarters, however, there is a feeling that the state Department of Health and Environmental Control is too easy on business.

The state chapter of the Sierra Club is using a $35,000 grant from its national organization to find records to back that feeling.

State regulators say that they are trying to strike a balance between the environment and growth. The chamber called the Sierra Club campaign divisive.