State Attorney General Henry McMaster spent Wednesday morning testifying before the Public Service Commission concerning the progress of South Carolina’s lawsuit versus North Carolina before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Catawba River. McMaster brought the suit two years ago because he alleges that North Carolina has not given South Carolina an equal say in the Tar Heel state’s decision to divert millions of gallons of water from the Catawba River. McMaster says it is important for the PSC to know the particulars concerning the lawsuit. “The question of the amount of water that’s going to be flowing through the river and will be available to the power companies is something the Public Service Commission will be interested in since they set the rates for the power companies. They need to know the environment in which those power companies are working or trying to work.”
McMaster points out that the U.S. Solicitor General filed an amicus brief nearly three weeks ago in support of South Carolina’s argument to exclude interveners in the case and that the two states alone should present their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court. McMaster says briefs are now being filed to the court concerning South Carolina’s argument.
McMaster says once the case is heard a variety of witnesses will be heard from. “We know we are going to have historians, economists, hydrologists, all sorts of witnesses like that will paint a picture of the economic growth and development of both states as they move out of the past and into the future. We’re going to have to see where we were way back, where we are now, and where we plan to be way off in the future.” McMaster says ultimately the court will decide how much water must flow across the North Carolina border into South Carolina.
McMaster says the lawsuit was brought because North Carolina has rebuffed every attempt at negotiating a settlement because no one would listen. “Governor Sanford contacted Governor Easley, the House and Senate of South Carolina passed resolutions and sent them to their counterparts in North Carolina, I went up and spoke to the Attorney General there, Congressmen Clyburn and Spratt both contacted their colleagues there and we could not get to first base.”
McMaster says the only time North Carolina has paid attention to the case is when the U.S. Solicitor General filed the amicus brief nearly three weeks ago.
A week ago North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper stated that an interstate commission could better resolve the dispute and save both Carolinas money. McMaster says he has made too much headway in the case to quit and that attempts made five years ago to negotiate were met with little cooperation from North Carolina.
McMaster says, “We tried that starting back in 2004 and did not get to first base. We are not about to stop this case and go off forevermore with negotiations that lead to nowhere either with North Carolina or Georgia. We’re making no progress with negotiations and conversations and agreements. That is why we filed the lawsuit.”
McMaster says the U.S. Supreme Court is fully aware that the decision in the case will set a precedent for other interstate water usage disputes in the future.