If you followed any of the press last week, you know the third week of South Carolina’s 124th legislative session was quite eventful. While our state leaders continued to debate the issue of Santee Cooper and how best to respond to the pandemic, our state unfortunately saw the nation’s first South African COVID variant and became the state with the nation’s second highest new COVID cases per capita. Our elected leaders have enormous challenges ahead of them over the next several months, but their dedication to getting the work done, despite these challenges, is promising.
Where does that leave our conservation and environmental priorities?
Santee Cooper: After quick debate on the House floor, H.3194 passed out of the House chamber with a 89-26 vote. This bill authorizes the sale, reform, or management of the public utility. It has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
While the fate of Santee Cooper looks to have moved along quickly through the House, we can expect movement to be much slower in the Senate. As mentioned in previous updates, there are a number of pieces of legislation in the Senate that signal this account.
In fact, Senator Luke Rankin recently introduced S.475, a joint resolution that requested investor-owned utility NextEra Energy to provide the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee with all paper and digital communication from the company dating back from 2017. As of Tuesday, January 21, 2021, NextEra had not met its required deadline, and based upon last week’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Senators found the unmet deadline intolerable. You can read more about it here.
We will keep you updated on how Santee Cooper progresses. In the meantime, you can tune into a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee meeting today at 3 pm here. The subcommittee will discuss Santee Cooper reform S.464 - a bill that limits board members from serving two, unexpired consecutive terms and charges the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) to review any changes in rates.
Clean Drinking Water: If we can discover anything from the pandemic, it is the revealing environmental inequities that have tormented marginalized communities for decades. That includes clean drinking water. Thankfully, many agree that something can be done to ensure clean drinking water for all.
Senators Thomas McElveen and Katrina Shealy and Representative JA Moore have introduced joint resolutions (S.219 and H.3514) that require DHEC (Department of Health and Environment Control) to regulate PFAS in our drinking water.
You can learn more about PFAS and take action RIGHT NOW! Encourage your SC state legislators to sign on as a co-sponsor to these resolutions because everyone deserves clean drinking water!
Pollution and Bad Actors: Our state often boasts about it being an industry-welcoming state. Unfortunately, there are times when bad actors attempt to weaken our environmental laws or change environmental regulatory laws all together – even before they invest in the state. That should raise red flags. Senate bill S.162 and House bill H.3753 attempt to do just that. These bills want polymers (plastics) to be reclassified as recovered materials and not what they are – solid waste. This means stockpiled plastic waste at certain facilities will be exempt from solid waste regulations. In the past, we have seen where bad actors exploited solid waste loopholes – leading to toxic contamination.
These bills will weaken environmental protections for many of our state’s vulnerable communities by exempting these pyrolysis (gasification) industries from state oversight. The House legislation goes a step further and allows the incineration of plastics – proven to be extremely dangerous to the air we breathe.
Stay tuned on how you can make an impactful difference and stop these bills from moving forward in the next coming weeks.
Conversations with Conservationists: A Senate Briefing: Last week, members of the SC Senate, the SC Conservation Coalition, advocates, and volunteers convened for a morning of information and conservation education. Hosted by Senators Chip Campsen and Thomas McElveen, attendees were provided with summaries of this year’s legislative priorities for the SC Conservation Coalition. You can view a recording of the Senate briefing here. All materials from the briefing can be found here.
As you can see, more than ever, we need your voice. More than ever, we need you to take action. Whether it’s tuning in to our upcoming film series or taking action on legislation for clean drinking water, we need you.
As always, thank you for all that you do!