COLUMBIA — The director of South Carolina's environmental agency says federal officials are thwarting her efforts to make what she says would be more effective use of funding the state gets from the government.
Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Templeton told The Associated Press on Thursday that she wants to transfer $50 million in federal money from a fund for clean water efforts to one for drinking water projects.
But Templeton said she has received no response to a June 4 request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for permission to make the transfer.
“Because of regulations and grant provisions and bureaucratic restrictions, I can't transfer my money to me,” Templeton said.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the request and planned to respond formally.
The clean water fund, from which South Carolina communities request money for public works infrastructural projects, will have about $187 million in it at the end of the state fiscal year, according to DHEC. Even after committing $56 million to projects ready to proceed, Templeton says the fund – which is also expecting communities to make loan repayments worth $34 million – will still have about $165 million available for use.
Templeton said she would like to use that money to fund projects related to drinking water, like ensuring that communities' systems are clean and operating properly. That fund, according to DHEC, has already committed almost all of its $57 million allocated but has $55 million in other projects that would be ready to go if the money were available.
So, Templeton said, she wants the EPA to let her use unused money from the clean water fund to pay for those projects. But since the money comes from the EPA, Templeton says she's being told she can't designate more than a certain percentage of it for other use.
“This is the most outrageous example of how the fed government throws money at things without allowing us to use our common sense,” Templeton said.