by Chris Haire
According to a tweet from the S.C. Senate GOP caucus, the state Senate has voted unanimously to overturn DHEC's decision approving a water quality permit for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Previously, the state House voted for a similar bill, which passed 111-0.
As you know, without the water quality permit the proposed Savannah River dredging project would not be able to proceed. (Or at least that's one interpretation of the law. Another suggests that the project never needed DHEC's approval in the first place. It was a mere formality.)
I don't know about you, but all of a sudden I feel like shouting "hoorah" or "huzzah" or some other equally enthusiastic shit. The Port of Charleston has been saved. Yay! Nikki Haley and her evil goons over at the Department of Health and Environmental Control have been defeated. Yay! I'm sitting at work typing away at a blog post when I could be at drinking bourbon at a bar and scribbling dirty doodles of Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain getting bested by the men of the Salami Fighting Association on a beer coaster. Boo!
See, I seriously doubt this victory will last. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the men and women of the S.C. General Assembly know this as well. It's all just for show. We all know that ultimately the courts will get involved and the harbor expansion project will proceed as planned while the Port of Charleston faces a future of obsolescence.
As I said in a previous post on this matter, the reports about the DHEC vote have been wrong about one crucial point, a point so crucial that it nearly destroys the conspiracy theory that Gov. Haley was paid off by friends of the Port of Savannah to advance the project: It was not the DHEC board of directors that overturned the permit denial as has been widely reported; it was the DHEC staff that reversed course.
The distinction is important for the simple fact that DHEC board members, as Haley appointees, are beholden to the governor for their paychecks while the DHEC staff is not. Haley can replace the board at will, but she'd likely have one helluva time firing all of the DHEC staffers involved in the permit denial. Just saying.
Also, it's important to keep in mind that the Army Corps of Engineers not only approved the Savannah Harbor expansion, they were the party that appealed the earlier DHEC denial, so if there's any conspiracy it must include them as well. Oh and you'd also have to add the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the gang of rogues who plotted against South Carolina. After all, but the EPA and Fish and Wildlife have no objections to the harbor expansion project.
See, in order for this conspiracy to work, it has to be solely between Nikki Haley, the Georgia Ports Authority, and the DHEC board. Once you throw in the DHEC staff, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the EPA, the whole thing starts to get too fucking complicate — that is unless you want to believe that this thing goes all the way to the top of the U.S. government. Ugh. (That said, none of this means that Haley didn't pocket some cash in a little game of you-scratch-my-back, I-scratch-yours.)
When it comes down to it, all of this bitching and moaning by the General Assembly is about keeping the Port of Savannah from getting a competitive edge over the Port of Charleston. The trouble is, there's a good reason that the Port of Charleston is behind, and it's because our state elected officials and their comrades in D.C. have been sitting on their asses instead of making sure that the Port of Charleston gets the money it needs to expand. It's their laziness — not the acts of some sinister cabal — that has put the Port of Charleston way behind the Port of Savannah.Update: The state Senate's 35-0 vote was for the second reading of Senate Bill 1115. According to the Charleston Regional Business Journal, a third and final reading is expected today. The Senate has also approved the House's version of the same bill.
P.S.: To all of you who came to this page via Huffington Post and made it this far, you deserve like two gold stars and an A++. To those of you HuffPo readers who didn't make it to here, you owe me a bourbon and Coke for being lame lemming linkers. I will find you.