Whew! What an exciting legislative session! Last week, the South Carolina General Assembly finally adjourned for the 2020 legislative year but not before we were able to celebrate some BIG WINS on wildlife protections, energy delivery, and the appointments of our new Public Service Commissioners.
- Last week, the House concurred with Senate amendments on H.4831 (the Turtle Bill) with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 99-0. The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk! As you may remember, this bill will protect our native reptiles and amphibians from illegal wildlife trafficking.
- The House also concurred last week with Senate amendments to H.4940, the Energy Market Reform Study Committee Bill, with a 99-11 vote. It’s now headed to the Governor’s desk! This bill will establish an electricity market reform study committee charged with assessing the ratepayer and clean energy benefits of various energy market reforms, including joining or creating a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). Read more here.
- On Wednesday, the SC General Assembly elected 4 new commissioners to the SC Public Service Commission (PSC):
District 1: Carolee Williams
District 3: Mike Caston
District 5: Headen Thomas
District 7: Delton Powers
The new commissioners were sworn in on September 24th, and now they will preside alongside the other current Public Service Commissioners: Justin Williams (Chairman), Florence Belser (Vice Chair), and Tom Ervin. These Public Service Commission appointments show that legislators are serious about learning from mistakes like VC Summer. Lawmakers codified the state’s policy of encouraging renewable energy in the Energy Freedom Act last year, and with this new Commission, we’re confident we’re on our way to a cleaner, brighter future. Read more about our new Public Service Commissioners here.
What’s next for Conservation Legislation
With the conclusion of this very unique legislative session finally now behind us, many of our legislative priorities will need to be revisited and reintroduced in January 2021. Here are a few issues that we’ll be working on over the next few months:
1. Clean Energy Access: Whether it’s making sure that the future of Santee Cooper includes closure of coal plants and adoption of clean energy resources or lowering power bills and giving ratepayers clean energy options, this next year is all about access for all. Whether you’re a renter or homeowner, you should be able to get your energy from solar panels. You should be able to adopt affordable energy efficiency practices in your home. And, your energy burden (the percentage of your monthly income you pay for energy) should be reduced. All in all, we’re looking forward to rolling out a legislative agenda that will make sure all South Carolinians can access clean, affordable energy for their families.
2. Protecting South Carolina’s Land and Water: To reduce the impacts of climate change on our people and our environment, we need to take bold action to protect 30% of South Carolina’s land and water resources by 2030. This is a big goal, but we’re committed to working with stakeholders and state agencies to get there. Stay tuned for opportunities to advocate for land and water protections as we approach the 2021 legislative session.
3. Environmental Justice: All South Carolinians should have access to clean air and water. All South Carolinians should have a voice in what happens in their community and what may impact their family. We’re committing to fighting environmental racism and working with Black, Brown, and low-income communities in 2021 to hold polluters (and the institutions that support them) accountable. We look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.
Connected in Crisis: With our partners, we launched a new initiative called South Carolina Connected in Crisis to address energy poverty. South Carolina Connected in Crisis is a public awareness campaign that is devoted to empowering ordinary people to impact Public Service Commission decisions – particularly during COVID-19. We believe that families should not have to make tough decisions like paying for medicine or putting food on their tables simply because their utility bills are too high.
If you have had challenges or know someone who has had challenges with threats of power shutoff, late fees or other challenges, please consider sharing your story. Our Public Service Commissioners should know about the difficulties many South Carolinians are facing – especially during these uncertain times.
Follow the Pod: We hope that you have also been listening to our podcast, co-hosted by CVSC’s Rebecca Haynes and Alan Hancock with the Coastal Conservation League. New episodes come out every Friday afternoon. Click here to listen to previous discussions and subscribe to Public Concern.
Watch our Green Tie Awards: If you didn’t get a chance to tune in, you can still catch our 12th annual Green Tie Awards online. This year’s virtual event recognized Senator Tom Young, Representative Beth Bernstein, Representative John King, and Marilyn Hemingway. You can view the entire Green Tie program and the individual videos celebrating each honoree online. You can also check out the 2020 Green Tie Awards Program for biographies of our 2020 honorees.
As we wind down the year and prepare for another legislation session, we’re grateful for your continued advocacy and support. Thank you!