Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal put out a statement to thank our own Nikki Haley "and others" for helping out with the expansion of the Savannah port.
That sure was nice of him.
Of course it's the least he could do, seeing as how our governor and "others" -- her hand-picked Department of Health and Environmental Control board cronies -- sold out South Carolina and the Charleston port for him. The DHEC board recently approved a controversial permit to dredge the Savannah River, a move that literally will put the river on life support and could cost this state billions.
"It's an assault on the Charleston port," says state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.
He's right. Which raises the question of why state officials would do something that not only hurts the state's environment but also hits us square in the wallet. Stavrinakis has asked for copies of all communications between the governor and the DHEC staff and board, as well as an updated list of campaign contributions to Haley.
Because there's something fishy here, and it's not the river.
Earlier this year, Haley cleaned house at DHEC and appointed her supporters to the board.
Environmentalists noted that several of these new stewards of the environment were developers and other pro-business types -- the kind of folks more sympathetic to strip malls than snail darters.
So, they're not exactly the Coastal Conservation League -- what do you expect from Haley? But no one much expected them to go quite this far. State Sen. Chip Campsen, a voice of environmental reason in the Legislature, said DHEC's decision defies reason.
"If they are pro-development, you'd figure they would be pro-development in your state, not the other state," Campsen says.
The State Ports Authority has a $45 billion economic impact annually and is responsible in one way or another for more than 10 percent of the jobs in this state. And our governor and her DHEC board gift-wrapped a possible competitive advantage to another state?
This time Haley is not going to get away with motivational poster slogans and ignoring questions.
Quid pro quo?
The state's own Savannah River Maritime Commission, with the help of the state attorney general, is going to fight the DHEC ruling.
Sen. Larry Grooms, a member of the commission, notes that "No South Carolina business has gotten such preferential treatment as the Georgia Ports Authority."
He's not kidding. It took the previous DHEC board longer to permit our port to expand onto the old Navy base, affecting 14 acres of marsh, than it did for this board to permit Georgia to screw up 1,200 acres of marsh. Something's wrong with this picture.
Lawmakers are focused on stopping this now but will soon ask how it happened. There are disturbing stories of Georgia officials wining and dining certain S.C. officials to grease the skids. Officials in both parties hope that's not true. Because the alternative is horrifying.