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For literally a month, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has been taking it squarely up the yin-yang as it relates to the “Savannah River Sellout,” her administration’s flagrant betrayal of the Palmetto State’s economic and environmental best interests in an effort to cater to moneyed interests in Georgia.

As Republicans and Democrats alike have blasted her over the controversial decision (which puts taxpayers on the hook for port expansion in Savannah, Georgia while shortchanging the Port of Charleston and effectively killing off a deepwater port in Jasper County, S.C.), Haley has largely stuck to her talking points.

Not anymore …

Haley is finally fighting back – and we’re not just talking the cover she’s been receiving from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (RINO-S.C.) or the fact that her national consultant reached out to her favorite website for a little “sponsored content” on the issue.

According to one of our sources in the governor’s office, Haley has been aggressively reaching out to South Carolina business leaders – including those with interests in Georgia – in an effort to get them to help her put a positive spin on the deal.

Haley is also attempting to apply political pressure on her “enemies.” Specifically, Haley’s emissaries have tried to keep former S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) board chairman Mike McShane from participating in the deliberations of the Savannah River Maritime Commission – the agency which is statutorily charged with representing South Carolina’s interests along the river.

On Friday, the commission announced that it was moving forward with a formal legal challenge against the ruling reached last month by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The Southern Environmental Law Center is also suing SCDHEC.

Haley – who is accused of receiving financial and political favors from moneyed Georgia interests – has denied attempting to influence SCDHEC’s decision, although she has acknowledged that it was her intervention which got the agency’s board to review the case.

“(Georgia) Gov. (Nathan) Deal flew down here, and he said rather than your staff hearing what we have to say would you allow the board to hear it,” Haley said. “I absolutely allowed him to do that the same way I know he would allow it if I was doing something for South Carolina.”

SCDHEC had previously rejected environmental permits for the proposed Savannah port expansion.

Will Haley’s efforts to push back against the scandal pay off?

That remains to be seen …

Her toughest sell? The fact that SCDHEC simply dropped its requirement that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the agency seeking the permit) must explore a more environmentally viable alternative to dredging the Savannah River all the way up to the location of Georgia’s port facilities.

The Jasper County port site – located fourteen miles closer to the ocean – is clearly such an alternative.

Haley will also have a hard time explaining why it’s better for South Carolina to spend government money on expanding the Port of Savannah as opposed to permitting private investment to build port infrastructure in the Palmetto State.

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