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.
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 worse. Niquette 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?
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.