South Carolina's political infighting over Georgia's plan to deepen the Savannah River continued Monday when Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed a measure aimed at blocking the river dredging.
The House and Senate had unanimously approved the measure, so the votes to override the governor's veto appear well within reach. But there is disagreement about what the resolution would actually do, with Haley's office saying the measure would have no practical effect, and lawmakers disagreeing.
The fact that the governor's office and the House and Senate are all in Republican hands has done little to stem the acrimony regarding the Savannah River issue. Lawmakers say Georgia's plan to deepen the river -- to accommodate larger container ships at the Port of Savannah -- would harm the environment and the competitiveness of South Carolina ports.
They fault Haley for asking her appointed Department of Health and Environmental Control board to review, at Georgia's request, a water quality permit for the dredging plan that the DHEC staff had denied. When the DHEC board approved that permit, lawmakers accused Haley of harming the state. Legal challenges were filed, and the House and Senate passed a resolution to retroactively strip DHEC of its authority regarding the permit.
On Monday, Haley said lawmakers had gone too far. She called the joint resolution "an unconstitutional legislative overreaching into an agency's ruling" and said the DHEC board's decision "was based on law and scientific benchmarks."
The governor also said the resolution was legally flawed.
The House could act as early as today to overturn the veto.
"The governor is looking for an out when she should be looking for an opportunity to join in with us on the fight to protect South Carolina's environment and economy," said House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
The legal issue surrounding the resolution deals with whether the permit approved by the DHEC board is the same permit that the resolution would retroactively void.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552.