Holy journalism degree, Batman!

Here’s what happened.  On Friday, Governor Kasich hastily called a press conference featuring his new Ohio EPA director Scott Nally.   At the conference, Nally signed a clean air permit for a company in eastern Ohio.  Kasich said that the permit had languished for over twenty months, but after a few phone calls between his new EPA Director and the company and blammo–all the issues were finally resolved and the State could issue a permit.

And that’s exactly how the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported it, just as the Kasich Administration had hoped:

"This is a fact — it was over 20 months they couldn’t get an agreement. He did it in 48 hours, and the air is cleaner as a result, and they make more money as a result," Kasich said.

Nally wasn’t willing to say who was to blame for the hold-up, but Kasich called it "just bureaucracy and a lack of commitment and a lack of vision."

And others would have followed suit, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Mark Niquette decided to do some reporting on his own.  You see, Kasich’s scheme would have worked except the prior Ohio EPA Director was a) still alive; b) reachable by phone to the media; and c) actually remembered the circumstances of the permit.

Governor Strickland’s Director of the Ohio EPA told Niquette:

But former EPA Director Chris Korleski said that although permits should not take so long to approve, in this case, the state worked diligently with the company on a complicated application that required lengthy negotiations and four submissions from the company.

He said that included delays in getting information from the company, but once the application was complete on Nov. 15, a draft permit was issued the next day, a public hearing held Dec. 21, and all that was left was to finalize the permit.

Korleski said he even approved two orders last year allowing the company to burn the gas on a trial basis and to continue operating until the application could be completed.

"This was not a case of someone sending in a complete application and then we just sat on it," he said.

So, to recap, the company dragged its feet to provide the information the agency needed to grant a final permit, but the agency gave the company temporary “draft” permits that allowed them to utilize the process they were seeking final approval.  In other words, the delay in getting a final permit didn’t delay the company from apparently doing, well, anything.  And the Ohio EPA was poised to issue a final permit when the Director had to leave due to a change in Administrations.

But it gets even worseNiquette later reports:

But one EPA staffer told The Dispatch that workers "were told to find a permit that was ready to go out the door so a press conference could be held with the first permit being sent out with the new director’s signature." What they didn’t find out until later was that the ready-for-approval permit would be used as an example of the agency’s supposed inefficiency.

Another insider observed: "Obviously, he (Kasich) is taking credit for single-handedly repairing problems with a permit application and issuing a permit in a few days while it was actually ready for sign-off and there was no real input from the new administration."

Neither wanted to speak for attribution for fear of reprisals.

So the Administration asks the agency to identify a permit ready to be issued in their first week, but hides from the agency that the permit they identify will be used in a “dog and pony” show as an exhibit of how the Kasich Administration is already winning a battle with the bureaucrats in the agency.  A fight nobody in the agency knew was going on because the permit had been cleared for approval before Kasich took office, but simply didn’t get to sign before the clock ran out.

What was John Kasich’s response to these allegations that his Administration staged last week’s press conference in a political farce that grossly misrepresented the situation?

Kasich Lied

Why, he denied that these facts even matter!

In today’s Dispatch, Niquette reports a defiant Governor who simply refuses to admit to the lie that his Administration played a significant role other than signing the permit.

"I didn’t overplay anything," Kasich said. "The thing sat there for 22 months. Period. There’s nothing more I can tell you. Scott Nally did a great job, the company is thrilled, there’s positive things that come from this."

Governor John Kasich has no shame.  He’s clearly lying about this even after he was stone-cold busted just as he tried to continue to lie about what U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan told him about Ohio’s “Race to the Top” money for school reform.  The guy literally has no shame.

Kudos to Mark Niquette of the Columbus Dispatch in getting the truth out on this one.

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  • Pelikan

    C2 opined in similar fashion a couple of days ago. The media hasn’t figured out that Strickland left Ohio in better shape than most people understand. Kasich needs to be called on all of these stunts … http://www.clipsandcomment.com/2011/01/16/kasichs-message-machine-rolls-through-mingo-junction-wheres-the-truth/

  • Charles In OH

    Typical for a Wall Street douchebag. Got to take his cut while others do all the work.

  • Lucy

    I am happy somebody is telling the truth about this permit. The staff who worked on it for 20 months need the kudos, it was complex, time consuming, and well done, until the end. I would hate to have my new boss come in and display this type of bull, and still expect respect from good people, doing good work, his employees. Kasich and Nally, good luck sleeping tonight because “shadowman” will collect what is his in the end.

  • Dael

    maintain a facade, that is too much work John, you got much more to worry about. Typical maneuver for these guys, and we are now supposed to respect the office of Kasich?

  • Auditor0007

    This is just the beginning. I don’t trust this guy one bit. Something tells me Ohioans are going to be upset with themselves when they realize who Kasich really is. For the first time in over twenty years I voted Democrat this past election. Yes, I can see through all the stupid hype from the Republicans.

  • Anonymous

    Niquette is on his way out the door. Maybe he decided to stick it to his bosses and commit some actual acts of journalism before he leaves.

  • EPA Guy

    This actually wasn’t so much Kasich lying but rather being mislead by the new director and then running with it. Here is a video of the conference: http://blogs.dixcdn.com/capitalblog/2011/01/48-hour-permit/

    Some quick background for those unfamiliar with the air permitting process. Any permits for larger facilities that could be subject to the Title V permit program (think steel mills, oil refineries, power plants, etc.) must be issued first in draft form where the public (and the company too if it chooses) can offer comment. A draft permit is a substantially complete document, meaning it has all the basic background info about the facility and operations. Comments are reviewed, and then the permit will be tweaked and issued unless something is really wrong. Some permits have additional comment periods but that’s not relevant here.

    Anyway, at some point in the video, a reporter asks Scott Nally whether this permit was issued draft and when. He completely ducked the question and changed the subject because it proves everything that he said was bogus. The permit in question was actually issued draft on November 16, 2010 before Mr. Nally even applied for the job as director. I will also point out that the company FINALLY sent OEPA all the necessary information required on November 15. So folks at the agency actually moved exceptionally quickly in getting this out once the company’s application was complete.

    Now the reason it “took over 20 months” has mostly to do with the company being subject to an enforcement case for violating the terms of its previous permit. The details are spelled out here: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/27/enforcement/year_2010/SeverstalWheelingMingoJunctionEnergy_033010.pdf Basically, the company was indecisive and didn’t have their ducks in a row until just recently. Unfortunately this was a case where the EPA got burned for trying to be too flexible. If this situation comes up in the future, it is now understood that a company will have its application returned and must refile if they do not promptly answer a request. This prevents it from being “on the clock” but I don’t think it is ultimately beneficial to the company because refiling takes more of their time.

    I’ve been told by multiple sources that Scott Nally is one of those people obsessed with metrics and numbers. I think OEPA is headed in the direction of doing everything it can to look good on paper regardless of actual outcomes. It should be interesting to watch…

  • Hearthkeeper

    Ohio lost jobs only because a ploy was set up by big business to undermine unions, to teach the people of Ohio a ‘lesson’ , to weaken workers’ rights to federal protection to on the job safety, and to consolidate the position of a few in controlling many. It is called the business ‘theory of chaos’ and makes the people fearful of taking a stand.

  • Littleguy

    The lying is still going on. King Kasich’s campaign just sent out an email bragging about the permit and about the subsequent meeting he had to spend all that money to drag the EPA employees to Columbus to chew their asses.

    Doesn’t this clown ever learn. The truth means nothing to this guy.

  • Anonymous

    Can you send us that e-mail?

  • Anonymous

    How can we fix the problems if we stick our heads in the sands and ignore when our leaders engage in political stagecraft to present themselves as solving non-existent problems?

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