In a second round of rebuke for Gov. Nikki Haley, senators unanimously voted Wednesday to reverse a port decision by Haley’s environmental board.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar measure last week.
At issue is a decision late last year by the Haley-appointed board of the Department of Health and Environmental Control to grant a water quality permit to Georgia. That vote helped clear the way for an expansion project of the Savannah port, a competitor with South Carolina’s port in Charleston also in need of money for an expansion project.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the decision will hurt the environment, put South Carolina at a disadvantage to Georgia and also hinder the prospects of a new port in Jasper County.
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“It was a very egregious decision both economically and environmentally,” said Sen. John Courson, R-Richland. “We want the state and world to know it.”
Haley has defended the board’s decision and said she will work hard to ensure the Charleston port is expanded and the Jasper Port project is realized.
Ultimately, the courts will decide whether the DHEC board had the authority to issue the permit or whether lawmakers are right and the Savannah River Maritime Commission, a board they created in 2007 to handle ports issues, had the authority.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson is pursuing the case. Lawmakers including Courson hope their resolution will bolster their case in court.
Democrats say it’s more proof that Haley is in over her head.
“I think this will be the biggest mistake she will make in her entire career,” said Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland. “It is the worst mistake of any governor in my lifetime.”
The resolution heads back to the House for one more vote, then to Haley’s desk.
She plans to veto it, said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman.
“(The resolution) is an unfortunate over-step of the legislature’s authority,” Godfrey said.
That likely means lawmakers will override her veto.
“I suspect her veto will be overridden – unanimously again,” Lourie said.