An unusual, truncated legislative session officially ended last week with the quick passage of a continuing resolution and sine die resolution.
These resolutions provide some guidance for legislators in this time of uncertainty. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Continuing Resolution was uniquely crafted so that legislators can return to the State House to handle tough budget decisions and finalize legislation that is close to passage this September (with the ability to meet sooner based on state revenue adjustments and needs).
The Continuing Resolution also provided measures for how Santee Cooper can operate this year until the Legislature has an opportunity to revisit the issue of a sale or reform of the state-owned utility. Thankfully, lawmakers prioritized solar development and coal plant closures while making sure that riskier and long-term projects can’t happen before the Legislature makes the final decision on the future of the utility. The legislature also created an oversight committee to oversee decision-making during this time. We’ll be monitoring this issue as lawmakers continue to meet and will let you know when the legislature resumes debate on the future of Santee Cooper.
As lawmakers continue to meet over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to actions concerning conservation legislation that impacts the land, air, and water in our state.
What’s next for Conservation Legislation
With the conclusion of the legislative session now behind us, most of our legislative priorities this year will need to be revisited and reintroduced in January 2021. Here’s a quick summary of where we ended things:
Santee Cooper: As noted above, there are temporary reforms outlined in the Continuing Resolution that advance clean energy and allow the utility to shut down dirty and expensive coal plants. We expect to see more work on oversight, clean energy, and other reforms to the utility late this year or during next session.
Offshore Drilling: While a permanent ban on offshore drilling did not pass this session, the continuing resolution maintained the one year ban on offshore drilling related infrastructure. This means that the ban stays in place for as long as the Continuing Resolution is in effect – essentially until a new state budget is passed either this year or next.
PSC Elections: With the passage of the Sine Die Resolution, the Public Service Commission elections can occur when the General Assembly reconvenes this fall. As we learn more about the schedule, we’ll keep you updated.
Unfinished Business: Because they were included indirectly in the Sine Die, three of the bills we’ve been following have the opportunity to become law this fall – the Energy Market Reform (RTO) Bill H.4940, the Wildlife Trading (Turtle) Bill H.4831, and an EV Charging Station Infrastructure Bill S.922. This is great news! We’ll share more on these issues as the calendar for the remainder of the year becomes clear.
On Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 12:30 PM, Bill Stangler with the Congaree Riverkeeper and Megan Chase with Upstate Forever will host the South Carolina Conservation Coalition’s 9th webinar. They will focus on management of our water resources and update us on the status of the State Water Plan. They’ll also discuss ways for you to get involved. Register here.
We’re planning to take a break from webinar production next week, but we’ll be updating you soon on the June schedule.
We hope that you’ve also been listening to our podcast, co-hosted by yours truly with Conservation Voters of South Carolina, Bill Stangler with the Congaree Riverkeeper, and Alan Hancock with the Coastal Conservation League. New episodes come out every Friday afternoon. Click here to listen to previous discussions and to subscribe to Public Concern.
Although we didn’t see as much conservation legislation move through this legislative session as we intended, we should remain proud that so many lawmakers were eager to champion our efforts to preserve what we love most about our beautiful state. That’s promising!
We’ll continue to advocate this summer, fall, and into 2021. We’ll send you less frequent updates this summer, but will make sure you have the latest news and options for staying engaged. As always, thank you for using your voice to keep our state clean, healthy, and safe for all South Carolinians.