The Future of DHEC & The Conservation Enhancement Act
The second Year of session is always interesting, and this Year is following suit. Your Government Relations team at CVSC continues to be on the ground championing pro-conservation legislation and educating legislators on the importance of preserving and protecting the South Carolina we love, and we couldn’t do it without your support! Also, if you were able to join us at the legislative reception last week, thank you! We had fun celebrating with you.
So, here’s what happened in Columbia last week, what’s coming up this week, and how you can continue to use your voice:
SC Conservation Enhancement Act (S.1039 & H.4956): Last week, Governor McMaster, Senator Campsen, and Representative Smith held a press conference highlighting the state’s commitment to double protected lands through the SC Conservation Enhancement Act. Introduced by Senator Campsen in the Senate and Representative M. Smith in the House, the SC Conservation Enhancement Act restores deep stamp funding to the Conservation Bank, expands the Conservation Bank Board, and the Senate version allocates the sales tax on outdoor recreational equipment for land management.
S.1039 now sits in the Senate Finance Committee, and H.4956 sits in the House Ways and Means Committee. With strong bipartisan support in both chambers, we hope these bills become legislative favorites. We will be closely watching both and will update you as they move forward through their respective bodies.
All in all, the South Carolina Conservation Enhancement Act enables strategic investments in land conservation that can balance economic development. This legislation will help create and expand public greenspaces and critically important ecosystems that contribute to the resilience of our communities. This week, we’d like you to ask your Senator to sign on as a co-sponsor (or thank them if they have already). Encourage your Senator to support the SC Conservation Enhancement Act!
Clean Drinking Water (PFAS): The Senate Medical Affairs committee continues to be challenged with a staggering amount of legislation. Once again, the committee did not get to S.219 on the agenda. We know it is frustrating, but we’ll update you when this bill is up for a hearing in the coming weeks.
More importantly, though, we remain grateful for those of you who have taken the time to reach out to your Senator to urge them to pass S.219. This extra time gives us more opportunities to educate Senators and set the legislation up for success.
The Future of DHEC: Last Year, Senator Peeler and the Medical Affairs subcommittee introduced and amended S.2, which would reform DHEC by splitting one agency into two: the Department of Behavioral and Public Health and the Department of Environmental Services. This is a big undertaking and the Senate Medical Affairs Committee intends to revisit the bill this week. CVSC supports prudent, thoughtful reform of DHEC if it makes the agency more efficient, successful, and accountable in its effort to protect South Carolinians and our environment from pollution. As drafted and amended, S.2 fails to do that. As S.2 works its way through the legislative process, we will work hard to improve the bill and ensure that environmental protection remains at the forefront of our Senators’ mind – whether that mission remains at DHEC or not.
Permit Extensions: Senators Rankin and Loftis introduced S.17 in order to extend some development permits, such as erosion control plans and air quality permits, in response to the pandemic. While we acknowledge that there has been hardship to the development community and permit applicants, DHEC cannot broadly extend these permits without considering the dangers to the environment, especially along the coast, and generally extends permits when asked and when appropriate. A hearing is scheduled for this bill today and CVSC is committed to working with the Senate Judiciary committee to improve it and ensure that permit extensions are done safely.
Climate Ready Columbia Conference: If you want to learn how South Carolina cities can respond to the climate crisis, join CVSC at the Climate Ready Columbia Conference in April!
SC Energy Progress Update Webinar: From VC Summer to Now: Join CVSC as we explore how South Carolina’s energy landscape has been transformed since the 2017 nuclear fiasco. In this webinar, you’ll learn how SC utilities have behaved and how the work of the legislature has impacted the SC energy sector. We’ll also cover a recent string of concerning decisions at the Commission that may challenge progress towards a clean, safe, and resilient energy system for SC. You don’t want to miss this! Click here to RSVP.
Thank you for all you do!