Happy first week of the legislative year! Tomorrow we start the second year in the two-year legislative session. Let’s dive into our first 2020 Weekly Legislative Hotlist.
As a quick reminder, the Hotlist is your weekly update from CVSC on all the conservation happenings at the Statehouse in Columbia. In it, I’ll summarize what happened the week prior and what’s on tap for the week ahead.
So as we all get back into the swing of things, here’s what you can expect heating up in the next few months in Columbia.
Reforming the PSC and implementing the Energy Freedom Act:
The last few months have been a roller coaster at the Public Service Commission – the judicial body charged with overseeing utility regulation in the state. First they hired an “independent” consultant we deep ties to the utility monopolies. After media scrutiny and harsh legislative feedback, they fired that consultant.
Then, the PSC issued decisions around solar payments and contracts that would lead to a “solar doomsday scenario.” Again, after outcries from the public and legislators, the PSC reversed course and set a rate for that will now allow it to compete in the energy marketplace.
We heard feedback from countless lawmakers that change will be coming to the Commission. There are four seats on the Commission that they will get to fill in 2020 and that there are multiple PSC reform bills pending in the Senate and House, including H.4260 by Rep. Caskey and H.3641 by Rep. Clary.
Finally, we saw three bills (H.4809, H.4776, and S.947) pre-filed in December by Representatives Finlay, Tallon, Allison, Hyde and Senator Harpootlian that would lengthen the cooling-off period that a Commissioner has to wait before being able to take a job with a utility company, signaling additional bills and debate are on their way regarding the PSC.
I doubt the excitement is completely over yet. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on the PSC and associated legislation to keep you in the loop.
The Fate of Santee Cooper
Following intense debate at the end of 2019 in the General Assembly, the State solicited bids for the future of Santee Cooper – either through sale, management, or reform of the state-owned utility. Legislators are eagerly awaiting these recommendations, which will be sure to spark intense debate.
Regardless of the fate of the utility, discussions around Santee Cooper’s future provide an opportunity to encourage bold action from the state-owned utility on clean energy growth and the rapid closure of dirty and expensive coal plants. With the low cost and low risk of renewable energy, Santee Cooper should be leading the way to a clean energy future for South Carolina – not lagging behind.
Protecting SC from Offshore Drilling
We ended the 2019 legislative session with temporary successes on offshore drilling with the budget containing a 1-year ban.
Signaling that the fight for a permanent ban off of South Carolina’s coast will continue in 2020, Senator Campsen and 29 bipartisan Senate cosponsors pre-filed legislation (S.870) that essentially makes the budget provision from 2019 permanent – preventing the permitting of on-shore infrastructure for drilling. We’ll start session off with a subcommittee hearing in the Senate on S.870 on January 15th >> Send an email to your Senator supporting this bill by clicking here.
At the same time, a similar bill in the South Carolina House sponsored by Reps. McCoy and Stavrinakis (H.3087) sits on the House floor with over 40 bipartisan cosponsors. CVSC and our anti-drilling allies will be pushing hard for a vote to ensure that South Carolina does all it can to protect our coast from the dangers of offshore drilling.
There are a number of other issues that remain “unfinished” from 2019. With this being the second year of a two-year session, these bills will pick up where we they left off.
That means CVSC and our conservation allies will continue to fight “Big Plastic” and their attempts to ban local plastic bag ordinances. We’ll also fight “Big Plastic” as they seek exemptions for pyrolysis facilities that will melt down tons of plastic waste each day potentially putting our air and water at risk.
In the budget, we’ll push for full funding of the State Water Plan and the Conservation Bank.
Stay tuned for how and when you can take action.
Conservation Events Galore
Finally, as we look at the calendar, we realize there are A LOT of ways you can engage in legislative happenings with CVSC and the conservation community. Please, SAVE THE DATE for the events listed below:
- January 21: CVSC’s Annual Legislative Kick-off Reception at Blue Marlin’s Vista Room from 6-8 pm. Grab some food and drink and chat with legislators about what’s in store for the year ahead for conservation - RSVP here.
- January 22: the SC Conservation Coalition Senate Briefing in Room 105 of the Gressette Building at 10 am. Hosted by Senators Gregory and McElveen, come hear conservation leaders give in-depth insight into key priorities for the community in 2020. Check out the event on Facebook here.
- February 5: the SC Conservation Coalition Legislative Breakfast in the Blatt Building from 8-10am. Come enjoy breakfast with conservation advocates and legislators and learn how you can help advance conservation.
- March 18: the SC Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast. An all-day event with lobby training, lobbying at the Statehouse, and an evening oyster roast. You don’t want to miss it!
Whew! If you can’t tell from this email, there’s a lot going on at the Statehouse starting next week. Here at CVSC, we’ll keep fighting on your behalf to protect the air, land, and water we love in South Carolina.
But I know for a fact that we can’t be successful without your voice and your actions. So keep an eye out for our action alerts, my weekly hotlist, changes to our Action Center, and all our events. Help us win on conservation by sending an email, making a call, or showing up here in Columbia. Together, we can continue winning for conservation.
Thanks for all you do. Until next time.