HOTLIST – Action and Inaction in the SC Senate
Thank you for helping us host a great lobby day with the SC Conservation Coalition. Nearly 200 advocates spent last Tuesday talking to legislators about conservation issues that matter to them. Special thanks go to Rep. Micah Caskey (R – Lexington) and Sen. Tom Davis (R – Beaufort) who started the day with us, sharing advice and perspective with advocates on how to best communicate their passion to legislators.
Nearly 200 advocates came out for the SC Conservation Coalition Lobby Day 2019 last Tuesday.
If you weren’t able to make it last week, you’re in luck! We have another clean energy lobby day and rally in just over a week.
Let’s dig into the hotlist. Here’s what happened last week and what’s on tap for the week ahead.
What happened last week:
- Dam Safety Rollbacks: The dam safety bill that will weaken our already weak law moved to the floor of the Senate last week. Thankfully, we have Senators who see the flaws in this bill and are working to stop it from passing (many thanks go to Senator Harpootlian for objecting to the bill on the floor).Proponents of weakening dam safety law say we need to focus only on the most dangerous dams. The thing is, all dams under the dam safety program can be dangerous if they’re not maintained and monitored properly. That’s the point of the law – to protect people, property, and our watersheds. We need to strengthen this law, not weaken it.As the Post and Courier stated this week: “What [the dam safety program] needs — what lawmakers promised in 2015 but never did — is to be strengthened. S.107 is a step in the wrong direction.” (Read the editorial here.)Senators need your help to stop this bill. Please, take action now and ask your Senator to vote no on S.107 because it puts public health and safety at risk.
- Clean Energy: Unfortunately, we had a similar repeat of inaction on The Energy Freedom Act, S.332 (the companion to H.3659), in a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee last week. While Senators did hear from the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) about policy options for rooftop solar and contract length for large-scale solar (the major sticking point right now), it was another subcommittee meeting without a vote on the bill. There are MORE subcommittee hearings scheduled on March 28thand April 2nd for both S.332 and H.3659. We’ll continue pushing Senators to act, but your voice urging quick and decisive action is crucial. Without action soon, we’ll pass the critical 100-day mark to get clean energy action across the line and put more solar jobs and solar investments at risk. If we cross that threshold, we will find ourselves in uncertain territory with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investments at risk. We hope our Senators will not put us in that position.
- Plastics Pollution and Home Rule: The Senate LCI subcommittee heard more testimony on S.394 last week. Most of the testimony was focused on the need to maintain local authority over plastic pollution. Mayors from up and down the coast spoke passionately about the importance of home rule and addressing local plastic pollution problems. Thankfully, no action was taken on this bill that, if passed, would take away the ability of communities to pass local ordinances to help limit the use and impact of plastic bags and containers. We expect another subcommittee meeting in coming weeks, but one has not yet been set. In the meantime, we need you to keep pushing your Senators to vote no on this assault on home rule and local control over plastic pollution.
- Melting Plastics: During lobby day this past week, a potentially dangerous bill passed out of a House Agriculture subcommittee. If passed, H.4152 would allow plastic pyrolysis – the melting and gasification of plastics – in order to turn them into petroleum-based fuel for other industrial purposes. The bill could also take plastics out of the recycling stream, could allow increased air pollution and health impacts, could begin to limit local control over solid waste and recycling decisions, and could open the door to bringing out of state waste to SC. Given that this bill has potentially significant and far-reaching impacts, we’ll be working to make sure the full House Agriculture committee has robust debate and, hopefully, thoughtful and long-term considerations before they act.
The week ahead:
- Dam Safety Rollbacks: As mentioned above, the Dam Safety Rollback bill is on the floor of the Senate and is being held up by an objection from Senator Harpootlian. We’ll be keeping an eye on this bill and working with Sen. Harpootlian to ensure that this dangerous rollback of public safety and dam safety protections does not move forward.
- Clean Energy: As mentioned above, there is ANOTHER subcommittee hearing on Thursday, March 28th, for S.332 and H.3659. It is CRITICAL that there’s a vote on this bill in subcommittee this week if we’re to meet the 100-day deadline for action on clean energy. Without action, we run the risk of solar jobs leaving the Palmetto State and investors for large-scale solar pulling the plug billions in solar investment. Please, help us show Senators that inaction is unacceptable – and ask your Senator to press the subcommittee to act on clean energy this week.
- Melting Plastics: As mentioned above, this bill has potentially large and far-reaching impacts to our recycling industry and local air quality and public health issues. But it is moving quickly through the House. The bill is slated to have a full committee meeting on Tuesday, March 26, where they’ll discuss moving this potentially problematic bill to the floor. Until we find out more about this technology and the long-term implications of the bill, we have serious concerns about this progressing. There should be robust debate and discussion about the bill, this industry, and the impacts of melting plastics for fuel. We’ll be monitoring this issue and will keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you’d like more info on this issue or want to weigh in, shoot me a quick note to [email protected] and I’ll let you know the latest and how you can help.