We’re not tree huggers here at FITS. If anything we’ve been incredibly outspoken in our criticism of the so-called “environmental movement” in South Carolina, which as far as we can tell is joined at the hip with the state’s “good ole boy” network.
Seriously … South Carolina’s tree hugging elite tend to enjoy hobnobbing with the state’s legislative leaders more than they care about environmental stewardship, which is why our state ends up with disasters like this on its hands.
Anyway we don’t really give a rat’s ass if a snub-nosed sturgeon in the Savannah River is adversely impacted by controversial Port of Savannah expansion plans that were ill-advisedly approved by Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointees to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control last month.
Sorry, sturgeon …
And while we’re certainly concerned about the allegations of financial and political payoffs made to Haley in exchange for her acknowledged intervention in this matter, that’s not what’s driving us on this issue either.
So … what do we care about? The hundreds of billions of dollars that Haley’s decision could wind up costing our economy. Specifically, we’re referring to the adverse impact that Haley’s “Savannah River Sellout” will have on expansion at the Port of Charleston, on the construction of a Jasper County port and on the bottom line of U.S. taxpayers – who are now on the hook for a government-funded project in Georgia that will in all likelihood prevent a privately-funded (yet state-owned) South Carolina port from becoming a reality.
That’s why Haley’s premise that “what’s good for Savannah is good for South Carolina” is so ridiculous.
Sure, both Charleston and Savannah will likely wind up getting the waterways leading to their respective ports deepened – but that’s a net neutral for the port of Charleston, and a death blow to the Jasper project.
For these reasons, the Savannah River Maritime Commission – the state agency charged with representing South Carolina’s interests in these matters – has decided to take Haley’s SCDHEC board to court. In that effort, they’ll be represented by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.
But the commission isn’t the only entity that’s taking legal action against Haley’s sellout.
Last week, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed a lawsuit against SCDHEC specifically challenging the political “horse–trading” that led to the decision.
In a nod to recent scandals involving Haley’s office destroying public records, the SELC also warned Haley’s administration “not to destroy evidence concerning her office’s involvement in the matter.”
Interestingly enough, the crux of the SELC’s environmental case lines up pretty symmetrically with the crux of the economic case. The key point? That Haley’s appointees to the SCDHEC board were able to overturn a previous agency decision not because the state of Georgia met the agency’s requirements, but because those requirements were simply dropped.
Prior to Haley’s intervention, SCDHEC made its approval of the dredging project contingent on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers first demonstrating that there was not a more environmentally-friendly port expansion option available.
In other words, before dredging 38 miles of the Savannah River to a depth of 48 feet – the Corps had to first show that there wasn’t a way to provide the United States with the same economic benefit at a fraction of the environmental impact.
Enter the Jasper County port site – which sits fourteen miles closer to the Atlantic Ocean than the Port of Savannah.
Not only was this site the “more environmentally-friendly port expansion option,” it remains the last undeveloped deepwater port site on the entire Eastern Seaboard – a prime economic development asset
“Before the Governor’s office got involved, the agency properly concluded the project (failed) to meet legal benchmarks that protect South Carolina’s environment from unnecessary destruction,” SELC attorney Blan Holman told Connect Savannah. “After the intervention, benchmarks got moved.”
Exactly. And that isn’t just some hippie lawyer spouting his opinion about what happened – it’s exactly the way things went down.
In fact, SCDHEC board members have testified under oath that they simply dropped this critical economic and environmental prerequisite.
Say what you want about sturgeons and political corruption – and don’t get us wrong, we’re glad those issues are drawing people into this fray – but the real damage done by the “Savannah River Sellout” isn’t to some fish or to the governor’s approval ratings, it’s to the South Carolina economy.