If you are like me, you were happy to see the year 2020 find its place in the history books. It is safe to say that last year was tough for all of us. However, even as its challenges still linger, there is still the opportunity to appreciate what could be – especially with the encouraging and much conservation work ahead of us in 2021. In fact, the first week of the 124th South Carolina legislative session showed us that the work required will take all us to ensure that our air, water, and land remains safe and healthy for us to breathe, to drink, and to inhabit.
Here’s a recap of what happened in Columbia last week:
Santee Cooper: The issue of Santee Cooper is a top priority for our state legislature – so much so – there are now five bills that address its future. As mentioned in last week’s welcome back email, H.3194 was prefiled in December. You may remember this bill authorizes the sale, reform, or management of the public utility. With amendments, H.3194 moved through the House Ways and Means Committee and now sits on the House floor for discussion and a vote when they return to the Chamber next week. In the last week, we saw four more bills introduced in the Senate as they prepare to take up the issue of Santee Cooper:
- Introduced by Senator Hugh Leatherman, S.444 allows 6 legislators (3 Senate, 3 House) to negotiate either the sale or management of Santee Cooper. This committee of 6 legislators will be charged with making their recommendation to both legislative chambers. S.444 has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee.
- Introduced by Senator Tom Davis, S.439 calls for Santee Cooper to divest itself of all electric generation assets by January 2025 and transfer operational control of all transmission assets to a RTO (Regional Transmission Organization). The state’s Department of Administration (DOA) will provide oversight of this process. This bill sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- A reintroduction from last year, S.134 provides Governor Henry McMaster with more authority to remove all members of the Santee Cooper board of directors. S.134 sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Introduced by Senator Luke Rankin, S.464 limits board members from serving two, unexpired consecutive terms and charges the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) to review any changes in rates. S.464 sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
You can read more about the life of these bills and how many of our state leaders feel about the state’s public utility here.
Public Service Commission: Our public service commissioners continue to thoughtfully review dockets and hold utilities accountable to ratepayers. After brutal testimony and additional pressure from the Office of Regulatory Staff, Dominion Energy suspended its request by six months to increase rates due to the economic impact of the pandemic. You can read more about it here.
With the Senate returning briefly for one day on January 21st, this week, the House is working virtually in committee meetings and will not be back until Tuesday, January 26th. We will continue to work on opportunities for you to remain engaged at the state house. Please hold Wednesday, January 27th at 10 am on your calendars for Conversations with Conservationists: A Senate Briefing.
As always, thank you for all that you do!