Just when you thought there was nothing left in the political theater disaster that was Kasich’s first-week press conference taking credit for the issuance of an Ohio air pollution permit, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s “PolitiFact” comes up with a major fact we all missed:
After receiving comments from the company during the 30-day draft period that lasted until mid-December 2010, the EPA "revised the final permit twice to try and address their concerns and was ready to issue the final permit" during Strickland’s last week in office, [chief of the Division of Air Pollution Control] Hodanbosi wrote.
But the company balked at some of the language in the permit, so it wasn’t issued while Strickland was in office. "The company responded on Jan. 7, 2011, that they did not want the permit issued as written," reads the memo. (emphasis added.)
So, the facts are that the Strickland Administration was poised to issue the final permit until the Ohio EPA was contacted by the company on January 7, 2011 because it objected to some of the language in the permit the Ohio EPA was poised to grant it.
And yes, for those keeping track, January 7th, 2011, was the final workday of the Strickland Administration. If you think that timing is a coincidence, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Iowa to sell you. Remember, according to the Kasich Administration, this was a company that was chomping at the bit to get this permit. Also remember that most of the rest of the delay was due to the company having an unresolved environmental violation with the agency that needed to be resolved before a new permit could be granted. Let’s also remember that the Ohio EPA could have just denied the permit outright due to this violation, but instead let it go pending to allow the company to adopt this new process quicker.
Instead of being, as the Kasich Administration presented it, as a case of bureaucratic delays that only ended from their intervention, the situation looks entirely different now. Either it is a sheer coincidence in timing, or what actually occurred is that this company saw the regulatory conditions being placed on it by the Strickland Administration, and concluded that they could get a better “deal” by running out the clock on them and waited until Kasich took office. Once in office, the Kasich Administration was given a snowjob of a story by the company about how frustrated it was with the Ohio EPA and could the Kasich folks please, oh, please, help them get this resolved quickly by just simply agreeing that the company’s position was acceptable over the agency’s.
After all, that’s the one part of the story that hasn’t been factually challenged. We know that Kasich’s new Ohio EPA Director did make calls with the company’s lawyers:
Abbruzzese said Nally asked Bob Hodanbosi, chief of the Division of Air Pollution Control, top permit writer Mike Hopkins and other staffers to tackle 27 technical issues that remained on the permit request. They whittled that down to just a pair of issues by the close of the business day on Jan 12.
During an hour-long call on the morning of Jan 13, Nally, Hodanbosi, Hopkins and the company’s lawyer Ken Komoroski were able to sort out those last two issues. All that was left that night was for staff attorneys for each side to "trade documents and get the final language in place," according to Abbruzzese.
The company gets a permit on terms it wanted that it didn’t think the Strickland Administration would agree by making itself a poster child for the Kasich Administration’s “woe is business” in Ohio’s regulatory environment. The company gets its permit and all it has to do in return is let Kasich look like a hero.
So not only did the Kasich Administration get embarrassed for trying to play the media and having it all fall apart, but it’s pretty obvious that more likely than not the Kasich Administration, itself, got played by this company. Again, we know there are plenty of Ohio EPA employees who read us who can tell me if I’m way off mark here. But to me the remaining story is whether this company actually played off the Kasich’s Administration’s negative attitudes to its own regulatory agencies to get a better deal for it.