Clean Drinking Water, Land Conservation, and Polluter Accountablity
The lobby is always an exciting place. This week I saw a man dressed in full Uncle Sam regalia perch on a golden trash can outside of the Senate Chamber for several hours. Despite the excitement, it isn’t always the most eventful place, at least for CVSC’s purposes.
Session last week occurred at an interesting time as the House was gearing up for budget week and furlough the week after. It is also nearly time for candidates to file to run for the House of Representatives.
As a result, things were relatively quiet on the floors of both chambers, even though we’re quickly approaching the crossover deadline of April 10th for legislation to make it from one chamber to the other to stay alive.
So, it’s roundup time! I’m going to update you on the status of our legislative priorities for the Year.
Clean Drinking Water: We have been working hard on a solution to PFAS contamination this session. The EPA is as well, but we all know that the federal bureaucratic process is a lengthy one. CVSC supports two complimentary avenues to address this issue:
- S.219 was introduced last Year by Senator McElveen. It’s a bill that, as amended, directs DHEC and other state agencies to issue grants to water utilities and private well owners who have seen concentrations of PFAS chemicals approaching the EPA’s health advisory limits. S.219 will help us to begin addressing this issue now while we wait for the EPA to conduct its rule making process. This is up for a hearing by the full Medical Affairs Committee this Thursday (with a much shorter agenda than past meetings).
- Representative Herbkersman also introduced a budget proviso that outlines how DHEC should spend the $25-million the House Ways & Means Committee allocated for PFAS remediation. The proviso creates a new PFOS, PFOA, and Emerging Pollutants Remediation Fund in order to begin removing PFAS contamination from drinking water systems across the state. This proviso will be in the budget that the House will vote on this week on the floor.
Land Conservation: We have several paths ongoing to continue to conserve and protect lands for public use across the state:
- The Green Space Sales Tax (S.152) would authorize counties to establish a 1% sales tax by referendum. This money would be explicitly intended for counties to purchase new green space or enhance existing green space by increasing amenities or access. It passed the Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee.
- The Conservation Enhancement Act (H.4956) re-establishes the Deed Stamp funding mechanism for the South Carolina Conservation Bank. This critical funding would generate an estimated ~$22 million in FY 2022, vastly increasing the Bank’s capacity to conserve lands in our state. The Senate (S.1039) version of the legislation also directs sales taxes from outdoor recreational equipment to maintain and enhance existing public lands. Both of these bills are waiting on subcommittee hearings in their respective committees.
- Literally heaps of money. The House Ways and Means Committee allocated $100-million for land conservation across the state. That breaks down to $68-million to DNR to purchase new lands for public use and $32-million to the Conservation Bank. Your lobby team will be working diligently to ensure this money remains in the budget.
Polluter Accountability: Representative Pendarvis introduced H.5037, which gets us closer to our goal of protecting South Carolina’s land, water, and air from unproven industries or chronic polluters. The bill requires the Department of Commerce to take South Carolinians’ quality of life into consideration when recruiting businesses to our state – with an emphasis on balancing the use and protection of our natural resources. It also prevents the Department of Commerce from recruiting businesses or industries that have a track record of environmental crimes, permit violations, or chronic pollution. Finally, if the Department of Commerce recruits a new or unproven industry, that industry must provide financial assurances to make sure any pollution is cleaned up and the taxpayers aren’t footing the bill. H.5037 is awaiting a subcommittee hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Conservation Coalition Lobby Day & Oyster Roast: Join Conservation Voters and the SC Conservation Coalition for a fun day of advocating and celebrating conservation on April 26th (Please note the date change because of changes in the legislative schedule!). Be a part of making an impact at the State House with fellow volunteers, staff, and elected officials. Click here to learn more and sign up!