Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Haley's Deepen Port No Deal

Governor Nikki Haley who has endorsed Republican Mitt Romney said Obama was coming in the way of development in her State. "In South Carolina, we can't even pass our own bills without him getting in the way." "We pass illegal immigration reform, he stops it. We pass voter ID, he stops it. We get Boeing, he stops it. I mean, I'd just like to be a governor and be able to take care of my state. The president's trying to handle the entire country, and he's failing," Haley said.

The South Carolina Governor skipped a White House dinner hosted by the Obamas, citing personal meeting with friends. Though she skipped the dinner Haley, sought more funds from US President to deepen the two ports in her State and talked to him a day later.

South Carolina is recipient of taxpayers money three times more than it send to the federal government.

"I personally talked to him about the ports that we're all facing and the fact that why does it take the Corps of Engineers 10 years to do a deepening project," Haley, 40, told reporters after the meeting of Obama with national governors.

The Indian-American governor, Haley told White House reporters that she didn't thank Obama for having included USD 3.5 million to expand the Corps of Engineers study on deepening the Charleston port.

In place, Haley said she asked Obama to stop his administration, like previous ones, from diverting tens of millions of dollars in collected cargo duties from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and using the money for other needs instead of the intended purpose of dredging ports. "We've got a lot of areas that if we don't get our ports actually deep enough to be able to accept those big cargo ships, we're going to have a wasted opportunity and watch the Caribbean [ports] be the ones that benefit," Haley said.

Internal  GOP revolt
The South Carolina House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override Gov. Nikki Haley's veto on a bill meant to help undo a permit allowing Georgia to expand its port in Savannah.

The 111-1 vote in the House came a day after the Republican governor issued her veto. Haley ally Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, cast the lone vote to uphold it.

The measure would retroactively suspend the Department of Health and Environment Control's ability to make dredging decisions in the river shared with Georgia. Legislators hope it strengthens their case in court.

The Senate also is expected to overwhelmingly vote to override. But a timing rule delayed a vote in that chamber until Wednesday.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell said DHEC's original decision was correct, and its later agreement hurts an industry that, according to studies, is tied to one in every five jobs in the state. He called the decision and Haley's veto "a wrong we must fix."

The veto wasn't on the calendar for the House to take up Tuesday, but House leaders wanted to vote anyway.

"The Legislature is taking quick action to protect our taxpayers," said Harrell, R-Charleston. He says the measure makes "it abundantly clear and airtight that this dredging permit was improperly issued."

It suspends DHEC's authority as of 2007. That's when legislators created the Savannah River Maritime Commission and gave it authority to represent South Carolina on navigability issues in the river. The commission was not consulted about the settlement.

Attorney General Alan Wilson is representing the Savannah River Maritime Commission in its appeal, arguing that the water quality certification was issued in violation of the 2007 law and is therefore invalid.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is also appealing. Environmentalists argue the project will deplete dissolved oxygen in the already impaired river. The Army Corps plans to install a dozen Speece Cone devices in the river to pump oxygen into it, but opponents contend the "bubblers" are untested on such a large scale.

The measure now goes to the Senate where, by a 2/3 override vote of that body, it can become state law.

Though the $2.8 million allocated by Obama to deepen and expand the Savannah port is nowhere near enough to actually do it, it does indicate that the project will eventually get done. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has led a group of state politicians and business leaders in advocating for expansion of the port to prepare for the increased traffic in mega-sized cargo ships that will be able to come with the widened Panama Canal.

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