Members of the S.C. House of Representatives have once again unanimously rebuked the administration of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley over its appeasement of the State of Georgia’s port expansion plans. This time, House members are targeting a bi-state commission that could saddle our state’s taxpayers with millions of dollars in dredging costs associated with the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).
Haley’s appointees to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) recently gave the green light to Georgia’s port expansion plans. This “Savannah River Sellout,” as it has been called, will make it much harder for the Port of Charleston to reclaim the competitive ground that it has lost to Savannah over the last decade. It also amounts to death knell for a Jasper Port site – guaranteeing that toxic sludge from Georgia’s dredging will be dumped on the last deep water port location on the Eastern Seaboard for the next half century.
Now Haley’s appointee to the Joint Project Office – the bi-state entity that has been tasked with overseeing the Jasper Port project – is voting with Georgia’s delegation and against the best interests of the Palmetto State on a plan that would allow for additional dredging pursuant to the Savannah expansion.
And guess what … South Carolinians would be forced to pick up part of the tab for the project.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Bill Bethea, who is Haley’s appointee to the board, was the only member of the South Carolina delegation to support the Georgia proposal. S.C. State Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern and fellow SPA board member David Posek did not vote on it – arguing that issues pertaining to the navigability of the Savannah River fell under the exclusive purview of the Savannah River Maritime Commission.
The question of who is in charge of our state’s interests on these matters isn’t new. It’s at the heart of the SCDHEC scandal, too.
Joining Bethea in supporting the Georgia plan? Jim Balloun, the Georgia Ports Authority member who attended a controversial Atlanta fundraiser for Haley a few days before her appointees to the SCDHEC board reversed the agency’s prior position and approved Georgia’s expansion plans.
Sheesh … what is it with Haley and Georgia?
Oh right. We forgot.
Anyway, by a vote of 96-0, the S.C. House has passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Merrill which would impose new conditions on the JPO.
Specifically, Merrill’s bill would require that any expenditure of South Carolina tax dollars approved by the JPO would have to be made with the support of a majority of the South Carolina delegation. Also, Merrill’s bill would require that appointees to the JPO be subject to the advise and consent of the South Carolina Senate.
Frankly, we think it’s sad that South Carolina appointees chosen by South Carolina’s governor have to be reminded to protect South Carolina’s interests … but apparently such is the lot we’ve drawn in this state.