President Donald Trump's only known business in South Carolina will not be getting an environmental cleanup agreement with the state because his company declined to provide information required by regulators.
At issue were questions about connections between Trump's company, D B Pace Acquisition, which owns a North Charleston industrial warehouse on Pace Street, and prior owner Titan Atlas Manufacturing Inc., whose owners included one of Trump's sons, Donald Trump Jr.
State agreements known as "voluntary cleanup contracts" can protect owners of industrial properties from liabilities for contamination they did not cause, but those property owners must have no connection to prior owners.
Typically, the owners agree to monitor and in some cases mitigate known environmental problems that pre-date their ownership. In this case, a company that contaminated the property more than 25 years ago remains responsible for environmental cleanup work there, and Trump's company wanted assurances it would not be held liable for related costs that could arise.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control had requested information from Trump's company about past and present involvement and activities related to Titan Atlas Manufacturing and its "members, shareholders, officers and/or principals."
As The Post and Courier reported in 2015, Trump's D B Pace Acquisition gained control of the North Charleston property by foreclosing on a multimillion-dollar loan to Titan Atlas, which Donald Trump Jr. had co-signed. The senior Trump acquired the loan from lender Deutsche Bank, relieving his son of potential liability to the bank. He then foreclosed on the property, leaving Titan Atlas company's state and local tax debts unpaid.
Neither Trump's company nor the company co-owned by his son has been accused of polluting the property, but the property is an environmental cleanup site. That's because Lockheed Martin Corp. operated a business there more than 25 years ago that manufactured bonded and riveted aircraft parts and spare parts, according to DHEC.
Lockheed Martin remains responsible for cleaning up the site, but when Trump's company sought a voluntary cleanup contract to protect D B Pace Acquisition from potential liability, questions were raised about Trump's connections with South Carolina officials, and his company's connection to the prior ownership of the property that involved his son. Some news reports have noted that South Carolina's new governor, Henry McMaster, was a leading Trump supporter.
When The New York Times inquired about the DHEC application, the department spokesman who initially responded was Jeff Taillon, who had been a South Carolina political director of Trump's presidential campaign through March 2016.
"Jeff fielded the first round of inquiries from the NYT reporter before we knew there was a connection to Trump," DHEC's chief communications officer, Jennifer Read, said in January. "After we learned of the connection between this applicant and the president-elect, Jeff was removed as a spokesperson for this topic and another public information officer immediately took over fielding all inquiries related to this matter."
In a letter to D B Pace Acquisition dated Tuesday, DHEC said it would not be entering into a voluntary cleanup contract with the company, because the company had declined to provide the information the department had requested.
A South Carolina attorney who was DHEC's contact to D B Pace did not respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday. Attempts to get comment from a different lawyer for Trump's company, in January, were also unsuccessful.