County approves $50,000 to help PCS

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2009

By Staff
Commissioners will go to D.C. to lobby
Staff Writer
Beaufort County will spend $50,000 to hire a federal lobbyist to protect its interests in the PCS Phosphate permitting dispute.
The move came after commissioners met with company officials behind closed doors last week to work out ways the county can help the company.
The money will go to the Ferguson Group, which will lobby for the county and coordinate a visit to the Capitol by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. The vote came during a morning meeting with Beaufort County Community College officials.
The county is familiar with the Ferguson Group because it represented Washington County during the fight to stop the Navy’s proposed Outlying Landing Field, Spruill said.
The money will come from the county’s fund balance, which is essentially its savings account, Spruill said.
PCS Phosphate has been applying for a permit for a massive expansion of its mine-and-plant complex near Aurora for more than eight years.
The company blames work delays and associated job cuts on foot-dragging by environmental regulators. Environmentalists say the company itself is largely to blame for the length of the process.
The debate took on new intensity when the Environmental Protection Agency, which has veto power on permits, forced the regional Army Corps of Engineers — which processes applications — to send PCS Phosphate’s request to the Corps of Engineers’ Washington, D.C., office for an extra review.
Because the extra review is already about two weeks into its 30-day time limit, the lobbying effort will likely be short and intense, not slow and steady, Spruill said.
Cayton made the motion to appropriate the money. It was seconded by Commissioner Hood Richardson.
McRoy expressed similar sentiments.
Spruill said a permit veto would be catastrophic for the county.