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Hotlist: February 5

Hey friends,

Four weeks into session and I. Am. Pooped. It was such a busy week I am struggling to organize it all into the Hotlist. Here is my best shot—let’s dive in:

The State, She’s A-Growing: We have been hearing a lot about how fast our state is growing—the fastest in the nation, in fact. Last year brought record investments in Electric Vehicle and EV battery manufacturing ($4.3 billion) and Alternative Fuels and Advanced Energy ($1.5 billion). 

Unsurprisingly, more economic development means more jobs and more people. We at CVSC believe that growth can be a very good and exciting thing for the state, but it must be effectively managed to protect our air, land, and water. How can we do that?

Planning for Growth: Our counties and municipalities are expanding at a frantic pace, and not just in the Lowcountry. As a result, local governments need tools to help them plan and direct growth in responsible ways that ensure that we are protecting green spaces, fighting sprawl, and directing denser development into areas that can handle it. To that end, Representative Mark Smith introduced a bill last week to provide one of those tools: Transferable Development Rights (H.4996). In short, this tool lets towns and counties shift growth away from areas they want to protect and into areas that are advantageous for growth. These programs can protect open land, wetlands, farmlands, and more while increasing density, affordable housing, and efficient public services in other areas. We are excited to support this bill and applaud Mark Smith for taking the land-use-planning-bull by the horns. 

Planning for Our Energy Needs: Our state is also at an inflection point as we look at how we are going to keep the lights on. Despite the state building an economy based on clean energy and our federal designation as a regional technology and innovation hub for advanced energy, utilities are running headlong into a future reliant on natural gas. Santee Cooper and Dominion have asked the legislature for their blessing on building a new combined cycle gas plant at Canadys in Colleton County. The utilities’ request looks eerily similar to the one they made for the failed VC Summer nuclear plant, as CVSC president, John Tynan, highlighted last week to the Public Utilities Review Committee. They want a blank check to build a facility when the project’s complete cost and environmental impact have yet to be disclosed. The power plant and the pipeline needed to fuel the project will cost billions of dollars. As they say… fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. We won’t be fooled twice!

The solution to our energy problems is not an overreliance on dirty fossil fuels. Renewable and storage technologies are improving daily—we need a diverse and efficient grid that protects our environment and drives down costs. That’s what we’ll be fighting for at the General Assembly.

More Budget Requests: Last week, there were more agency presentations to Ways and Means Subcommittees to make their budgetary requests. Here are some highlights:

  • The Rural Infrastructure Authority began by highlighting their incredible work in 2023 after receiving $1.4 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. With that money, they were able to award project grants to every single county in the state, with 67% of those dollars allocated to small and disadvantaged areas. For next year, they’ve requested $11.4 million to fund a federal match of $50 million to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in our water systems.
  • The Department of Environmental Services (formerly DHEC) made its inaugural budget request to the Healthcare subcommittee last week. They noted that this was an opportunity to start fresh. Still, they highlighted that they are already facing extreme challenges in hiring, training, and retaining a skilled workforce equipped to carry out their mission. They noted that 40% of their staff had less than five years of experience and that a third of their environmental experts were set to retire in the next few years. With that in mind, one of their biggest requests was $10 million recurring dollars to provide salary increases, better training, and performance-based compensation.

We support these agencies’ funding requests and hope to see them honored in this year’s appropriations bill. 

Last week was a doozy, but I’m looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow for the annual Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast.

Updates & Actions

Energy: Last week, CVSC hosted an educational briefing for regulators at the Public Service Commission. Aaron Schwartz from RMI briefed the Commission on the reliability benefits large-scale battery storage brings to the electric grid. For example, did you know Hawaii replaced its last remaining coal plant with a state-of-the-art battery storage system? You can watch a recording of the briefing here.

Land, Water, Ocean: February is here, meaning SC Rosenwald School Day (February 28th) is fast approaching! We have good reason to celebrate this year, as the SC Rosenwald Trail Study officially kicked off in January.

H.4996 was introduced last week, enabling local governments to institute Transferable Development Rights programs. How we use land is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting the South Carolina we love and this is a powerful tool that empowers local planners. 

Events: Join us this week!

  • SCCC Lobby Day Webinar: The Conservation Coalition will hold an informational webinar today at 12:00 pm to go over what to expect, provide some lobbying tips, and answer any questions you may have before Lobby Day. Click here to sign up.
  • SCCC Lobby Day & Oyster Roast: Join the Conservation Coalition, a statewide alliance of over 40 conservation organizations, tomorrow for our annual Lobby Day and Oyster Roast!  Be a part of making an impact at the State House while networking and celebrating conservation with fellow volunteers, staff, and elected officials. Click here to RSVP.

The Legislative Hotlist is an update from our Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Policy, Meagan Diedolf. Sign up for emails to get the Hotlist delivered directly to your inbox!

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