I am Deitra Matthews, and I’m your new Legislative Communications Associate at CVSC. Although this is a new role for me at CVSC, I’m not new to using my voice to advocate to make South Carolina a better place, having advocated for education, children’s health, and military families.

In this new role, I look forward to using our collective voices to protect the South Carolina we all love in this and future legislative sessions and updating you on how conservation is doing at the Statehouse. You can read more about me on our staff page.

Already, conservation issues have had a strong beginning to the session, fueled by strong calls for conservation leadership from voters like you. It is clear that our elected leaders have heard these calls and are listening. Thank you!

To keep up the pressure and keep up the momentum for conservation in the Statehouse, we need passionate conservation voters to continue to let their leaders know that protecting the air, land, and water we love is a priority. And that’s why I’m hoping you can join me, our CVSC team, and our partners in the SC Conservation Coalition at a Legislative Breakfast on Wednesday, February 5th, from 8-10 am. This is a great chance to have your voice heard and then join us for a day of lobbying. You can RSVP here.

What happened last week?

Protecting SC from Offshore Drilling: Senator Campsen’s offshore drilling bill, S.870, easily passed out of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday morning. Now it heads to the Senate floor for consideration. Unfortunately, the Senate has been bogged down in debate regarding education reform for the last few weeks. It is unclear when they’ll finish this debate and take up other issues like Offshore Drilling.

Meanwhile, in the House, H.3087 by Reps. McCoy and Stavrinakis continues to sit on the House floor with 72 bipartisan cosponsors. CVSC and our anti-drilling allies will continue pushing hard for a vote on the House floor. Passage of either the House or Senate bills would ensure that South Carolina does all it can to protect our coast from the dangers of offshore drilling.

To add your voice to the fight, please take action today to ask your Senator and Representative to support our fight against offshore drilling.

Microplastics: A joint resolution (S.1023), introduced by Senator Sheheen, would ensure that the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Environmental Control conduct an in-depth study of microplastics contamination in the state, providing our state with critical information on how to limit plastic pollution and reduce human exposure to plastics in our food and drinking water. Last week, this bill unanimously passed out of a Senate subcommittee and moved forward to the full Committee for consideration.

Reforming the PSC: The “PSC Cooling-Off” bill (H.4776) requires Public Service Commissioners to wait 3 years between serving on the Public Service Commission (PSC) and working for a utility. Last week , the bill passed out of the House LCI subcommittee. Remember that the PSC is the quasi-judicial body that oversees rate-setting and other key issues for private utility companies. This bill would put an important check in place to ensure that the PSC is looking out for the interests of ratepayers first and foremost.

Bad News from the PSC: On Thursday, the PSC doubled-down on their anti-solar ruling for Duke Energy that they made in November. On Thursday, conservation groups and solar industry advocates asked the PSC to reconsider their decision to slash solar payments (called avoided costs) for large solar projects by 33% in Duke Energy territory. Unfortunately for ratepayers and clean energy, the PSC decided to stick with their “solar doomsday” decision. This means it’s unlikely we’ll see any new large-scale solar in portions of the Upstate and Pee Dee until the PSC takes this up issue again.

This anti-solar decision by the PSC stresses the importance of the upcoming PSC elections in the General Assembly. Legislators will be faced with a choice of continuing the status quo that favors utility monopolies or continuing to reform the commission to focus on an energy marketplace that allows clean energy to compete and lowers bills for ratepayers.

The application window for additional folks to submit their name for consideration for PSC seats will likely open up again this week, with the vote in the General Assembly later this spring. Read more here.

What’s happening this week?

Santee Cooper Report: We’re expecting news on the Santee Cooper bid and report process late this week or early next week. In the meantime, we’re continuing to push legislators to advocate for a 100% clean energy commitment from Santee Cooper that will lower bills, create jobs, and protect us from air and water pollution. Please sign our petition calling for a 100% clean energy Santee Cooper if you haven’t yet. And if you have signed it, please share it widely.

Coalition Breakfast: As I mentioned in my introduction, the Conservation Coalition is hosting a legislative breakfast this Wednesday, February 5. This is a great opportunity to chat with your lawmakers and stress the importance of protecting the air, land, and water we all love. I hope you can join us! You can RSVP here.

Legislative Slow Week?: With education reform keeping the Senate busy and judicial elections in the House and Senate on Wednesday, it looks to be a slow week for legislation on the floor of both chambers. And, as of right now, there are no committee meetings scheduled for our priority issues. We will let you know if any of this changes and we need you to take action on key issues.

To wrap up my first Hotlist, I wanted to share one quick observation. In my short time with the CVSC team, I can tell that we are respected at the Statehouse, and because of this, we are effective advocates for conservation. More importantly, however, is that this respect comes from the fact that legislators know conservation-minded voters like you are active and ready to protect the SC we love. In just a few weeks, I have seen how much your voice and your passion make a difference. Let’s keep it up!

Thank you!

TAKE ACTION TODAY!