Young drinkers lured by Loko

Four Loko caffinated malt liquor (Alan Hawes/ 11/20/2010

COLUMBIA -- Powerful Sen. Harvey Peeler has called on Gov. Nikki Haley and her top staff to appear before a Senate committee for a Nov. 29 hearing over the governor's involvement in a controversial permit for Savannah port dredging.

Peeler is a Gaffney Republican and the Senate majority leader. He has also been a Haley supporter. Peeler wants the governor to provide letters and emails from her office to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia port officials.

The matter is at the center of a fire storm over a decision earlier this month by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control board to grant a water permit to the Savannah port that will enable it to prepare for larger ships.

Savannah is in direct competition with the Charleston port over which waterway will be better able to accommodate commerce after the Panama Canal is widened in 2014. Haley appointed the members of the Health and Environmental Control Board, but she has said she did not influence their decision.

Neither Peeler nor the governor provided immediate comment on the letter.

The whole matter is time sensitive. The State reported Sunday that Haley's office is routinely erasing emails between the governor and her staff members and public officials.

The policy of the governor's office — which critics say is in direct conflict with her campaign promises for transparency — is to only keep the emails between Haley and the public. Haley's office told the newspaper that the policy does not violate the state's open records laws, although that position is being challenged.

As a result of the policy, The State reported that the governor's office did not receive any email records prior to Oct. 3. Correspondence with the public was excluded from the request.

Check back for updates.