The governor can be a leading voice for protecting our state’s natural resources. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at the moment, according to a leading conservation group in South Carolina.

Conservation Voters of South Carolina, a non-partisan environmental conservation group, recently graded S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley with a “D” for her efforts to protect the environment – explaining that the governor has displayed a striking lack of attention toward conservation efforts.

The governor’s poor rating shouldn’t be attributed to any kind of political leaning by the organization. Both Democrats and Republicans have received both praise and criticism over the years from the group.

It’s simply evident that Haley has done little to promote environmental friendly initiatives in South Carolina. Our state government is certainly dominated by the legislature, but the governor can still lean on the General Assembly to encourage bills aimed at both protecting the environment and encouraging economic growth. She can help to lead the discussion as she has recently with her $177 million education plan. The same kind of leadership needs to be shown on conservation issues.

Protecting our natural resources shouldn’t be a divisive topic of discussion. While certain regulations, particularly at the federal level, can be viewed as obtrusive, state lawmakers can still work to develop sensible laws that promote economic development and ensure responsible preservation.

The conservation group notes that Haley has specifically failed to take leadership when it comes to trying to alleviate concerns over the development of a large-scale potato farm on the Edisto River as well as the state’s lack of support for solar leasing.

Issues with the controversial Edisto River plan will hopefully be subsided with a bill set to be introduced by S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston. The bill aims to place tighter controls on Walther Farms, the company looking to locate a large potato farm in Aiken and Barnwell counties. So far, Haley hasn’t been vocal as far as finding a solution.

Additionally, Haley could work alongside S.C. Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, to help ease the state’s restrictive laws related to the use of solar energy, including what’s called “third party leasing.”

This restricts utilities from leasing solar panels and energy generation equipment to a homeowner or business, which also allows consumers to sell back electricity they don’t use to power companies.

Such green energy policies are not only beneficial to the environment, but can also help create jobs.

Having clean air, water and land is essential to our vitality as a state and promoting sustainable fuel sources can help South Carolina emerge as a renewable energy leader. So far, Haley has deferred to the legislature and has failed to embrace policies that are both environmentally and economically friendly. These are initiatives that are important not only to the conservation community, but to the entire state.