You might think Alan Wilson is in a tough spot.
After all, the state attorney general is currently defending one state agency in a case against another state agency -- a case that currently is the biggest political football in South Carolina.
The Savannah River Maritime Commission is trying to block the Department of Health and Environmental Control board's approval of a dredging permit for the Georgia Ports Authority on said river. This is a project that will adversely affect 1,200 acres of our marshland, leave the Savannah River on life support and perhaps give Georgia a competitive edge in the ports arms race.
Talk about a self-inflicted wound.
When you mess with the single-biggest economic generator in the state, people tend to get upset. Especially because most people think the DHEC board and Gov. Nikki Haley have basically betrayed the state by cozying up to a competitor.
So, does Wilson feel like he's in a tough spot?
When Wilson explains the situation, this case sounds like a slam dunk.
The law, he says, is pretty clear. And that's what he is focused on, the law -- not the politics.
"We are simply protecting the statutory role of the Maritime Commission," Wilson says. "The Maritime Commission represents the state in all issues -- navigation, dredging -- that deal with the state of Georgia on that river."
Wilson says it's nothing against DHEC. That agency, which he has represented before, has the statutory right to give Georgia a dredging permit. But according to state law, the Maritime Commission has the final say and power to negotiate all dealings with Georgia concerning the Savannah River. DHEC, with Georgia on its mind, ignored that little point.
Wilson says it's sort of like getting a building permit from the town of Mount Pleasant without officials noting that you don't have the right zoning.
It's complicated anytime you deal with maritime law. But Wilson and his team are doing their homework.
That's a good thing -- the outcome could affect the state's business for a long time to come.
A nice change
This case is probably headed to an administrative law judge, but Wilson says all options are on the table. He's willing to take it wherever the fight leads.
And Wilson says that, despite the rumors swirling around the state, no other officials have called him to request that he stay out of this fight.
"If anyone has called my office, I'm unaware of it," the attorney general says. "It wouldn't matter anyway. We're trying to do the right thing by the law, by the environment and by the state."
That is exactly the right thing to do, and that position is not surprising to many politicos in the state. Many lawmakers say Wilson has been a pretty straight shooter, and that's a good thing.
It's refreshing to see a statewide official who's actually concerned about South Carolina's best interests.
Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.