The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking the federal government to disregard a pending South Carolina Supreme Court case over controversial port permits so that it can move forward with a massive taxpayer-funded expansion of the Port of Savannah.  Citing “inappropriate delays” stemming from the legal action, the Corps is asking the U.S. Congress to exempt it from having to receive South Carolina’s permission for the project – which will create lasting economic and environmental damage for our state.

In fact a letter to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer says that the Corps will consider such an exemption to be in effect “if Congress authorizes this project or next appropriates funds for construction.”

Sounds like a fait accompli to us …

This government-funded project – which will dramatically weaken the Palmetto State’s competitive position – also effectively kills any chance that a deepwater port will be built with private funds in South Carolina.  In fact, toxic sludge from the Georgia project would be dumped on our private sector port site – rendering it useless for the next half century.

So is S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley up in arms over this?

Of course not … in fact Haley has been the State of Georgia’s biggest cheerleader.

Nikki Haley: Thumbs up (for Georgia).

Eager to raise money and secure a prominent speaking role at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Haley sold our state down the river via the infamous “Savannah River Sellout.”

After initially opposing Georgia’s expansion plans, Haley’s appointees to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) flip-flopped last November and approved environmental permitting for the project – a decision that took place just days after Haley attended a fundraiser at an Atlanta law firm with extensive ties to the Georgia Ports Authority. Haley has repeatedly claimed that there were “no ties” to Georgia port interests at this fundraiser – although that claim has been thoroughly rebuffed.

Shortly after her 2010 election, Haley picked a high-profile fight with 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 (SCSPA) supporters in Charleston. “Georgia has had their way with us for way too long, and I don’t have the patience to let it happen anymore.”

Of course Haley’s tune changed when Georgia’s money and a prime time national speaking gig were presented to her.

As we’ve noted on literally dozens of occasions, South Carolina continues to operate its port system under a 1950s-style “total state control” model – one that forbids private investment in public infrastructure. Meanwhile our competitors – like California and Virginia – have dramatically expanded their port infrastructure (and created thousands of new jobs) by leveraging private investment.

Our state’s leaders – including House Speaker Bobby Harrell and then-Senate President Glenn McConnell – were specifically warned in July 2006 that South Carolina’s restrictions against free market investment were “counterproductive” and would “discourage investment” in our facilities.

They failed to heed those warnings … and now our own governor has completely cut us off at the knees.