The House and Senate finally kicked into high gear last week, making progress on much of the legislative work that has been pending. Debates regarding utilities and the nuclear debacle raged in both chambers. With pitched political positions on all sides, the final outcome remains to be seen. Please read on for all the action, and as always, your actions drive those outcomes toward positive results for conservation.
We are now counting down the days (psst… there are only 9 legislative days left) to the end of session. A lot can happen in 9 days, so we still need your help to move your legislators to take action on energy accountability, renewables, and consumer choice. Please encourage them to take action before it’s too late. Let’s finish Strong.
We have our last lobby day with the SC Conservation Coalition this Tuesday, April 24th. Please RSVP here if you’d like to meet Rebecca at Blue Flour Bakery at 11 am before heading to the Statehouse lobby.
What else happened last week?
Shoreline Management – H.4683 began this session with the potential to roll-back critical protections that were worked out through a consensus-driven, scientific process over the past decade. Through many meetings and compromises, our partners successfully defended the policy of “no seaward movement” of the shoreline that is integral to the effectiveness of the policy. It’s not perfect, but the compromised bill got second reading Wednesday, and third reading Thursday. It returns to the House with amendments before final approval.
Dam Safety Reform – The dam safety bill that passed the House in early 2017 finally came up before a Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee this past Wednesday. H.3218 would have provided DHEC the tools and data necessary to protect citizens, their property, and our rivers from failing dams. Several amendments were brought up at the last minute, and the bill was carried over for further review. This late in session, this outcome means the bill is likely dead for the year. While this is disappointing, Senators have committed to working on a new bill during the off-season that can give DHEC what it needs while also addressing land use development above and below dams in SC.
Landfill Clean-up & Emergency Fund – H.4644 passed unanimously from subcommittee Tuesday and full committee Thursday (with a favorable report). This bill gives DHEC the ability to respond immediately to landfill emergencies and requires construction and demolition recyclers to quickly process the debris they collect. The landfill fire in Chester last year brought a broad coalition of folks together to prevent future crises, resulting in this bill. This bill will be up for a floor vote in the Senate as soon as next week.
Solar Habitat – This bill will create a voluntary vegetative management standard for solar farm sites that will lead to native vegetation and habitat around solar sites that are beneficial to game birds, songbirds, wild pollinators, small mammals and other wildlife. DNR and other state agencies, federal partners, and conservation non-profits are finalizing the voluntary standards. H.4875 passed unanimously out of a Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee Wednesday, and it is scheduled for the next full committee meeting: Thursday, April 26th, at 10:00am in room 207 of the Gressette Building.
What’s happening this week:
Anti-Home Rule – H.3529 is the short-sighted legislation that undermines the rights of local municipalities to find local solutions to local plastic pollution problems. The bill is on the calendar for a vote on the Senate floor. If passed, it will go to the Governor. With your help, we can stop this bad bill. Please remind your Senator that you believe communities should have the right to find local solutions to local problems and ask them to vote against this unnecessary government overreach.
Offshore Drilling Resolutions – We have a battle coming up this week between resolutions that encourage the federal government to either support seismic testing and offshore drilling (H. 4887), or oppose them (H.4896, H.4892). Seismic testing is the first step toward oil/gas extraction off the coast and processing infrastructure on the coast. Besides the inevitable environmental damage these developments would bring, they would threaten the second most valuable industry in South Carolina: Tourism. The dueling resolutions will be discussed in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee Wednesday, April 25th, at 2pm in room 410 of the Blatt Building. Join us in encouraging Representatives to stand strong against Offshore Drilling!
Conservation Bank Reauthorization – The House bill that permanently reauthorizes the Conservation Bank, H.4727, will be back up before the House this week for a concurrence vote, determining whether the bill will go to a conference committee before final passage. The most important elements of this bill are a permanent reauthorization, maintaining the Bank’s independence and competitive grants process, and continuing the ability of the Bank to support cost-effective conservation easements. A number of other changes from both the House and Senate improve transparency and inter-agency coordination related to conservation efforts.
And, if you have any questions about these bills or want to read more about our conservation priorities for this session, check out our summary of 2018 legislative priorities here. >>