“Savannah River Sellout” Heading To Court … But When?
By unanimous votes in both the S.C. House and State Senate, Gov. Nikki Haley’s flagrant betrayal of our state’s economic and environmental interests (a.k.a. the “Savannah River Sellout”) was rebuked last month.
Despite this unanimity, Haley referred to lawmakers as being “out of touch” and vetoed the legislation – arguing the legal position of the State of Georgia, whose port expansion plans she has been aggressively promoting for several months.
Why is South Carolina’s governor arguing Georgia‘s case in an effort to pave the way for Georgia‘s port expansion? Especially after she made such a big deal following her 2010 election about her willingness to compete against Georgia – sending a clear warning across the Savannah River regarding port-related issues?
“You now have a governor who does not like to lose,” Haley told a cheering crowd of S.C. State Ports Authority supporters in Charleston shortly after her November 2010 election. “Georgia has had their way with us for way too long, and I don’t have the patience to let it happen anymore.”
Unfortunately, Haley’s definition of “not losing” in this case apparently involves not only ceding the field to her opponent … but playing a starring role on their team.
That’s too bad … our state needs to be following the model of successful public-private ports like Long Beach, not continuing to force taxpayers to pick up the tab for our state’s expansions (and, thanks to Haley, other state’s expansions too).
That’s four votes that Haley lost by a margin of 298-1 … easily the most overwhelming legislative rebuke of a governor we’ve ever seen on a major issue like this.
That rebuke now sets the stage for the S.C. Supreme Court to rule on the matter … but how? And when? And who’s going to initiate that fight? And how will the existing legal actions be consolidated?
Will Haley file a petition for original jurisdiction – alleging that lawmakers overstepped their bounds in directing her Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to follow a 2007 law delegating authority over river-related matters to the Savannah River Maritime Commission?
Or will one of the environmental groups that is opposing Haley’s sellout ask the court to hear the case?
And what will be the practical effect of the ruling? Will the sellout stand? Will it be overturned? Or will SCDHEC (which flip-flopped on this case once already) get yet another bite at the apple – this time with a clearly-defined set of parameters regarding its ruling?
Obviously, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has already agreed to represent the commission in its legal action against SCDHEC – and not just because he’s technically required to do so.
“He believes in the merits of their case,” a source close to Wilson tells FITS.
So do we … and so should anyone who cares about this state’s future competitiveness.
If Haley’s SCDHEC order is allowed to stand, there will be no Jasper County port – at least not in our lifetimes – and the Port of Charleston will miss out on a golden opportunity to reclaim the competitive advantage that it has lost over the last eight years. That could wind up costing this state hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars, which is why one S.C. Senator has called Haley’s betrayal “the worst mistake of any governor in my lifetime.”
Indeed. Rather than opening the door to private sector jobs in South Carolina, Haley is making our citizens subsidize a taxpayer-funded project in Georgia. It’s baffling coming from any governor … but it’s absolute sacrilege coming from a “Tea Party” conservative.
Making matters worse, failure to overturn this sellout guarantees that the last, best deep water port site on the Eastern Seaboard will be used as a dumping ground for toxic sludge from Georgia’s dredging … meaning that our competitive disadvantage will be compounded by a costly environmental headache.