Catherine Templeton – who was recently tapped by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration to serve as the next commissioner of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – will not answer questions about the governor’s “Savannah River Sellout” at her confirmation hearing this week.

“We’ve been told that she intends to plead the fifth on that,” a State Senator familiar with Templeton’s forthcoming testimony tells FITS.

Sources close to Templeton confirmed that assessment, indicating that the current director of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (SCLLR) will not say whether she agrees or disagrees with Haley’s flagrant betrayal of our state’s economic and environmental interests.

“Her job is to administer the regulations of this agency in accordance with the will of its governing board,” the source said. “She will affirm her qualifications, her competence and her determination to do just that.”

Hmmmm …

Last November, Haley’s SCDHEC appointees reversed the agency’s previous decision and granted a controversial environmental permit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). That decision will enable the port of Savannah to handle larger container ships, thus enhancing its competitive advantage at the expense of the Port of Charleston while effectively eliminating any chance that a deep water port will ever be constructed in Jasper County, S.C.

It also guarantees that U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for Savannah’s expansion – rather than private capital going to fund a Jasper County facility that would create thousands of South Carolina jobs and cause much less damage to the environment.

Haley has been roundly rebuked for the decision by Republicans, Democrats and RINOs – not only for the vast economic and environmental damage it would do to our state – but also because she’s alleged to have received financial and political favors from moneyed interests in Georgia in exchange for her appeasement.

How roundly? Both the S.C. House and the State Senate have voted unanimously to overturn the decision of Haley’s SCDHEC appointees.

Don’t get us wrong: Templeton is likely to be confirmed no matter what happens … but the process is expected to be rocky. In fact lawmakers specifically warned Haley not to nominate Templeton … but she did it anyway.

We’ve already weighed in on the merits of Templeton’s confirmation … more substantively than others, we might add. Of course we expected that Templeton would be a little more  forthcoming in her testimony than this.

How will her decision to “plead the fifth” impact her chances? We think it’s a very risky move … one that will certainly empower Haley’s critics in both parties, although we don’t expect it to sink her confirmation.

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