Welcome back to a new legislative session! I hope this update discovers you healthy and hopeful.
While lawmakers continue to respond to the global pandemic and the impact it has had on our beloved state, this legislative session will be full and will require each of us to remain active and engaged with conservation issues that affect the health and safety of our air, water, and land.
So, what are some of our legislative priorities and goals for the 124th legislative session? Let’s start with clean energy:
The Fate of Santee Cooper: In 2019, Act 95 established the process for allowing the state owned public utility to be sold, managed, or reformed. So, when legislators rejected all proposals last session, we were expecting the issue of Santee Cooper to be addressed quickly at the beginning of the 2021-2022 session – allowing the legislature to take up other matters that greatly impact the lives of South Carolinians. But, if you have been following some of the recent conversations in the press, it appears the matter of Santee Cooper will continue to be debated at length.
All in all, the ultimate goal is to pass legislation that ensures a just transition from coal with a commitment to a clean energy future and a healthier governance that is transparent and diverse – whether sold or reformed.
Pre-filed and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee in December, H.3194 passed out of an ad-hoc committee on January 6, 2021 with a voice vote of 9-2. We will continue to update you as the issue of Santee Cooper progresses through the House and Senate.
Advancing Solar Energy: As we continue to work with a pro-solar legislature and a highly qualified Public Service Commission, it is essential to identify barriers to solar adoption in South Carolina. Understanding that more equitable opportunities must be explored, working with legislation like the Solar Property Tax Clarification bill that was pre-filed by Representative Ballentine is a start.
South Carolina is one of the only major solar markets that fails to protect homeowners from increased property tax assessments due to solar panels. While no county currently assesses homes more because of solar, this is a consumer protection issue because no exemption is in place. Meaning, this may not be a problem yet; but, it could be. The Solar Property Tax Clarification bill gets in front of this potential problem.
Protecting our Land and Water: In 2020, you may remember that Senator Sheheen and Representative Cogswell introduced legislation that sought to establish an interagency taskforce that would create a roadmap to achieving the goal of conserving or protecting 30% of South Carolina’s land and water resources by 2030.
CVSC continues to lead the development of this land vision for South Carolina and continues to work to establish the policies and framework needed for successful implementation. In doing so, our efforts will include building a broad, diverse, and inclusive coalition of support for bold land and water protection that guarantees equal access to enjoy, to work, and to inhabit.
Senators McElveen and Shealy pre-filed S.220 in December – opening the door to accomplishing a just pathway to protecting what we all love and cherish about South Carolina.
Ensuring Clean Drinking Water: You may remember in 2019, the Post & Courier revealed that the drinking water in communities located near four Air Force bases in South Carolina was tainted with a chemical known as PFAS. PFAS is a forever chemical that not only remains in the environment, but also lingers in the human body – leading to serious health consequences and impeding growth development in children.
Referred to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, Senators McElveen and Shealy pre-filed joint resolution S.219. Referred to the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Committee, Representative JA Moore pre-filed joint resolution H.3514 and bill H.3515.
We will continue to work with our partners and legislators to make certain that all South Carolinians have clean drinking water.
Championing Environmental Justice: All South Carolinians, particularly those who hail from marginalized (Black, Non-White, Low-Income, Elderly, Disabled/Differently Abled) communities, should have the same degree of environmental protections and equal access to the decision-making process. Race, zip code, age, nor income should determine at which level our state protects basic environmental rights. No community should be sacrificed for economic gain or because of NIMBY (not in my backyard) circumstances.
CVSC understands that efforts to ensure equitable protections for all will require an unwavering commitment and a steadfast responsibility to nurturing partnerships with communities that are closest to environmental injustices- inevitably making them closest to the solutions. We will exhaust efforts to build a large and diverse partner group of organizations to make sure the solutions are immediately accessible to the communities that suffer most.
Historically and disproportionately shouldered by Black and brown and low wealth communities, we will especially continue to fight back against bad legislation that further exposes South Carolinians to polluted air and dirty water.
Save the Date: On Wednesday, January 27th at 10 am, please join us for Conversations with Conservationist: A Senate Briefing. With our South Carolina Conservation Coalition partners, we will update the Senate on our legislative priorities for the 2021-2022 session. You can tune in here.
As you can see, we have a full legislative session ahead of us. Please stay tuned for ways you can take action on these pieces of legislation.
Year after year, your labor proves to be invaluable, and we’re going to need it more than ever before. We truly cannot do this work without you.