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Hotlist: May 9

Hey friends!

Deep breaths, y’all. It’s Sine die! This means that it’s the last day of the session, and we made it through—sanity (mostly) intact.

We worked hard this year, so let’s recap one of the biggest campaigns that CVSC has ever engaged in, some reasons to celebrate, and a couple of priorities that didn’t make it across the finish line this time around.

The Elephant in the Room: As you may recall from previous Hotlists, H.5118 is a bill that aimed to greenlight costly gas megaprojects in our state—most notably—a massive gas plant along the Edisto River. It also aimed to dismantle key protections for ratepayers, landowners, and the environment within South Carolina’s regulatory and permitting framework. Such actions would result in increased electricity bills for South Carolina consumers, the construction of new pipelines across sensitive areas of the state, and the establishment of large, fossil-fuel-powered facilities, leading South Carolina to a future characterized by high emissions and pollution.

The conservation community’s response was proportional to the untold environmental destruction posed by this bill. Stopping H.5118 is one of the biggest campaigns that CVSC has ever engaged in. The bill posed a significant risk to our environment and pocketbooks; we couldn’t let that stand. We asked for your help, and you really delivered. So, we can’t thank you enough. 

So, how did it all turn out? It was like watching ping-pong. On Tuesday, the Senate amended H.5118 and turned it into a non-binding policy statement acknowledging South Carolina’s growth and need for more energy. On the floor, Senators were firm in their commitment to insist on this version of the bill. The bill finally passed the Senate on Wednesday and was sent to the House. Then, on Thursday, with only hours left before the General Assembly had to adjourn, the House voted to non-concur in the Senate amendments and served it back to the Senate. Unfortunately, the saga continues as the bill is now heading to a conference committee where the respective bodies will work out the differences. There is a lot of daylight between the House and Senate’s version, so there could be a long road ahead. We will keep you posted as things progress!

While it isn’t the end, it is an ending, and I cannot thank my team and all of you enough for your efforts and advocacy. 

Reasons to Celebrate: As this session closes, we’re celebrating the passage of two bills. CVSC worked tirelessly to find co-sponsors, educate lawmakers, and drive public support for these pieces of legislation that will impact land protection and accessibility.

  • Trails Tax Credit: The Trails Tax Credit (H.3121) will help expand and enhance trail connectivity in the state by offering a tax credit to private landowners who expand existing trails by adding a public trail to their property. The COVID-19 pandemic put an enormous strain on our trail systems, and this bill helps ease that strain by encouraging the accessibility and connectivity of South Carolina’s trails. Thank you to Representative Max Hyde for introducing this legislation that will provide more opportunities for South Carolinians to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors while simultaneously protecting more land.
  • Working Agricultural Lands Preservation: This legislation, H.3951, protects our farmland from rampant development. It creates a dedicated fund at the South Carolina Conservation Bank to grant easements to preserve working agricultural land for generations to come. Thank you to Representative Patrick Haddon and others who helped highlight how important our farmland is to the fabric of South Carolina. This bill was a joy to support, and I’m so glad we could attend the signing at Cottle Strawberry Farms in Hopkins last month. 

We’ll Be Back: Some of our priorities didn’t cross the finish line this year, but we’ll use what we learned this session to try again in the future. 

  • Alternative Fuels Tax Credit: This bill, H.3824, would incentivize the building of electric vehicle charging infrastructure by extending a tax credit for a portion of the construction cost. Unfortunately, it stalled in the Senate and was not moved forward. As more and more electric vehicles hit the road, it is important to have the infrastructure needed to support them. So, we’ll be back next year to try again!
  • Transferable Development Rights (TDR): This bill, H.4996, would create a tool that 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. This bill stalled in the House, but we heard a lot of bipartisan support from across the state about the need for smart growth. So, we aren’t done yet.

How did your legislator vote on environmental issues? Now that the two-year session has come to a close, we’ll be tallying up all the votes to release our 2023-2024 Legislative Scorecard in the coming weeks. This tool allows you to see how your elected officials voted when conservation was on the line. Visit our website to take a look at our past scorecards, and be on the lookout for an updated version later this month!

Closing Thoughts: The General Assembly will meet again in June to finalize some budget numbers, deal with conference committee reports, and the like. We’ll let you know how everything shakes out. Until then, please excuse the CVSC Government Relations Team as we raise a glass and fall immediately asleep. Cheers!

Other Updates

  • Energy: Attention Duke Energy Carolinas customers! Duke is asking regulators at the Public Service Commission for a rate hike, and you have a chance to speak up. There will be one more public hearing in Columbia on May 20 at 5:00 pm. Find details and registration links here, and contact [email protected] with any questions. Regulators will hear Duke’s side of the story—here’s your chance to tell yours! Dominion Energy customers, stay tuned—your rate hike hearings are coming soon.
  • Save the Date for our 16th Annual Green Tie Awards! This year, the luncheon will be held on Wednesday, September 18th, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We hope you’ll join CVSC as we celebrate conservation leaders across the state who have stepped up to fight for our environment and protect our communities. Follow along as we share more details in the coming months–you won’t want to miss it! Sponsorship opportunities are available now! Please get in touch with Shea Maple at [email protected] for more information. 
  • 2023-2024 Legislative Scorecard: At the end of every legislative session, CVSC releases a scorecard that allows you to see how your legislators voted on policy that impacts the well-being of our environment. It’s a great tool to use when speaking with your current representatives or deciding how to vote in the upcoming elections. We’ll be in touch later this month when the 2023-2024 Legislative Scorecard is ready for you to access!

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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