Home » CVSC Honors Conservation Champions at the 2022 Green Tie Awards

CVSC Honors Conservation Champions at the 2022 Green Tie Awards

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Over 300 members of South Carolina’s conservation, political and business communities gathered together on Wednesday in the Grand Hall of Historic 701 Whaley Wednesday, September 21, for Conservation Voters of South Carolina’s 14th Annual Green Tie Award Luncheon.

Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) honored conservation champions for their dedication to creating a safe, clean and healthy South Carolina. The event was attended by more than 50 state legislators, Constitutional officers, state agency heads and VIP guests as well as over 80 corporate and non-profit sponsors.

This year’s honorees featured a number of prominent conservation champions, including South Carolina Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, Senator Ronnie Sabb, and Phillip Kilgore, Chairman of Greenville Water.

“Each of these outstanding leaders we celebrate today have demonstrated commitment to prioritizing conservation in South Carolina,” said Cynthia Powell, CVSC Board Chair. “We congratulate them on using their position of power to preserve more local land, hold polluters accountable, expand opportunities for clean energy, and clean up contaminated water. Their bold approach to leadership has laid the groundwork for future leaders to expand upon this remarkable progress.”

 “When voters, businesses, and elected leaders come together to protect the South Carolina we love, we all win. That’s what CVSC’s Green Tie is about – celebrating the partnerships and conservation leadership that make a lasting difference for the economy and quality of life in South Carolina. Together, we are building a conservation voter movement that fights for – and wins – a prosperous, safe and clean South Carolina for future generations,” said John Tynan, CVSC Executive Director


Phillip Kilgore, Chairman of Greenville Water

Phillip Kilgore has served on the Greenville Water Commission for nearly 20 years and as Chairman since 2013. As Chairman, Phillip has built a consensus for Greenville Water to become a leading voice for conservation and environmental stewardship. Greenville Water is engaged in active partnerships with conservation advocates, community groups, and government agencies, to the benefit of water customers and the larger public.

Under Phillip’s leadership, Greenville Water has worked to advance conservation outside of its watersheds through community partnerships.  Greenville Water partnered with Naturaland Trust to preserving the Chapman Bridge Preserve, protecting the iconic Oconee Bells as well as unique wildlife habitat and water quality adjacent to Lake Keowee. Partnering with DHEC and DNR, Greenville Water has had a lead role in eliminating sediment from the Callahan Branch of the North Saluda River. Also under Phillip’s guidance, Greenville Water has taken a holistic stewardship approach to enhance water quality and overall the health of its watersheds, ensuring clean and sustainable water supplies for generations.  He has also led efforts with Greenville Water to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and programs at Roper Mountain Science Center and the Boy Scouts.

Senator Ronnie Sabb

In his twelve years of service in the South Carolina General Assembly, Senator Ronnie Sabb has been a consistent conservation champion, fighting for clean energy, clean water, and land protection efforts. His steadfast support for conservation policies has led to a 104% lifetime score on CVSC’s Conservation Scorecard. As both an attorney and a lawmaker with a close connection to his constituents, he appreciates the public health and quality of life protections that our bedrock environmental laws in South Carolina provide. Accordingly, he has fought tirelessly to prevent the rollback of core environmental protections that would harm the state and his beloved Pee Dee community.

Senator Sabb has helped complex clean energy legislation like the Santee Cooper Reform bill and the Energy Freedom Act navigate the complexities of both Senate committees and the Senate floor. He has taken principled stands to fight regulatory rollbacks – even when unpopular with leadership in the chamber – like the ban on local plastic bag ordinances and short-sighted attempts to weaken dam safety laws. A bipartisan collaborator at heart, he joined Governor McMaster and Senator Campsen at the Cypress Preserve the summer of 2021 to kick of discussions about doubling the amount of protected lands and water in South Carolina and cosponsored the bipartisan Conservation Enhancement Act with Senators Campsen and McElveen in order to begin to move towards this laudable goal.

South Carolina Speaker of the House Murrell Smith

Throughout his two decades of service in the General Assembly, Speaker Murrell Smith has remained a consistent conservation champion, earning his first Green Tie Award in 2015 for consistently championing efforts to clean up toxic pollution at sites like Pinewood, to properly fund state agencies that protect and manage our natural resources, and to preserve unique and special places throughout the Palmetto State. Since then, he has only ramped up these efforts as he ascended to Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and earned an 86% on the 2021-2022 Conservation Scorecard. 

Speaker Smith’s vision and leadership was instrumental in creating the Office of Resilience in 2020 and securing early funding to ensure the new agency had the resources to succeed. In the 2022 legislative session, Speaker Smith shepherded a record $100 million investment in land protection through the House Budget process and led efforts in the House Budget to create a $25 million state fund to provide funds for removing toxic ‘forever chemicals’ from drinking water systems throughout the state. In addition, Speaker Smith introduced the 2022 Conservation Enhancement Act as a first step to doubling the amount of protected land and water in South Carolina by re-establishing a dedicated funding stream for the South Carolina Conservation Bank. While these budget items were reduced through budget negotiations and the Conservation Enhancement stalled in late 2022, Speaker Smith never wavered on his commitments to fund and support a clean, safe, and protected South Carolina.

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