Welcome back! Even though I have taken a break from sending you “hotlist” updates, our state legislators have been hard at work preparing for the special legislative session that starts tomorrow, Septemeber 15th. As legislators continue to respond to the effects of COVID-19, they have also been diligent in their efforts to make sure our state agencies remain strong and reliable. From ensuring CARES Act funding is allocated quickly and responsibly to safeguarding another budget surplus – all while making certain our state elections are safe and students return to school carefully – their days have been full.
Over the next two weeks, legislators will be working to pass a general budget, elect a new group of Public Service Commissioners, and push forward legislation that was sitting on the floors of each chamber before the abrupt pause in the legislative session.
What to Expect this Week: At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Senator Tom Davis and Representative Bill Sandifer worked to introduce companion legislation that authorizes an independent, third party study of the benefits of facilitating and promoting competition in the energy generation marketplace. We call this legislation the energy market reform study commitee bill. In an opinion piece in The State Newspaper, Senator Davis says, The goal is clear: it’s for consumers to pay rates that are a function of what competition in the energy-production market dictates – as opposed to simply paying a mega-utility a guaranteed rate of return on its invested capital. In other regions of the United States, this energy market reform has encouraged competition in energy generation, while also encouraging the use of renewable resources – driving down the cost of energy to customers.
Luckily, H.4940 passed the House in February and now sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee, primed for passage this month. We hope Senators will agree with the House that this is valuable legislation for ratepayers and for our clean energy future.
We will be pushing for passage of H.4940, and we will keep you updated on its movement.
In the News: On September 8, 2020, President Trump announced that he would put a halt on portions of his plan to expand offshore drilling along South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida with a 10 year ban on drilling from 2022 to 2032.
On the surface, this is good news. But, as CVSC and many of our partners have pointed out, this decision by the Trump administration is only a small step in the right direction and could very well be nothing more than an election-year stunt.
Regardless of motives, we cannot rest until there is a permanent ban on offshore drilling that includes not only the South Carolina coast but the entire Atlantic Seaboard. Only then will our coastal communities be safe from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.
I believe the Post and Courier summarized it well: We certainly welcome President Donald Trump’s moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling along South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. But, as we’ve seen over the past few years, the politics of offshore drilling is changeable. So we need to remain vigilant, and Congress needs to pass a durable ban that future administrations cannot undo with the stroke of pen. Read more about this unexpected news here.
Public Service Commission Elections: On September 23rd, the General Assembly will vote on candidates to fill 4 out of the 7 seats on the South Carolina Public Service Commission. These Commissioners are responsible for things like: How much you pay for electricity, what sources your electricity comes from, whether a utility can shut off your power during a pandemic, whether there is a viable (and thriving) solar market in South Carolina, the location of utility infrastructure, energy efficiency, and whether you have options like local community solar programs.
It is an important and complex job – to say the least. As legislators consider the slate of candidates before them, send them a note to let them know that you have an interest in them making the best choices and you hope that they take this vote seriously.
South Carolinians deserve a Public Service Commission that is independent, decisive, ethical, and disciplined so that we can ensure protection of the public interest in the face of monopoly utilities. Contact your lawmakers here.
Green Tie 2020: Please join CVSC on September 22nd at 7:30 p.m. for a virtual reception honoring our 2020 Green Tie Award Honorees. The Green Tie Awards recognize elected officials and public servants for their efforts to protect South Carolina’s air, land, and water. This year, we are proud to honor Senator Tom Young, Representative Beth Bernstein, Representative John King, and Marilyn Hemingway (CEO of the Gullah Geeche Chamber of Commerce).
Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors! The 2020 Green Tie Awards Virtual Reception is free to attend. Please RSVP online here.
Thank you: As outlined above, we have all been pretty busy. While the legislative session has been exceptionally unique, there has been some sense of familiarity in the process of passing a general budget, choosing good Public Service Commissioners, conceivably passing influential energy legislation, and honoring our brightest conservation champions. You have played a significant role in this familiar process, and although we have not been able to physically see each other the way that we would have liked, you have remained engaged in the ongoing fight to ensure a cleaner and healthier South Carolina for all. Thank you!