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State House Update: Rights and Responsibilities

As legislators approach a short Easter break, it’s a trying time at the State House. As aptly summarized in The State, an onslaught of bills at the State House threatens to eliminate basic environmental protections. Our rights to question government action, like the automatic stay, are under attack. Thank you for your continued interest and action in protecting the South Carolina you love.

Saving the Stay

Thank you for sending messages to your Senator in opposition to S.165, which would eliminate the Automatic Stay. In state permitting decisions, if there are environmental concerns leading to a legal appeal of a permit, SC state law allows an automatic “stay” to be put into place to temporarily prevent irreversible damage while a court makes a decision. The stay is not a stoppage; it is merely the ‘pause’ button until a decision is made. This makes sense: If a project would do more harm than good we shouldn’t allow the harm to begin before having weighed its merits, rather we should pause and measure the matter before beginning. 

We had our final subcommittee hearing on the bill this past week. It was voted ou of subcommittee 2-1 (thank you to Sen. McElveen for voting in opposition). It now heads to the full Senate Judiciary committee this week. Please continue to take action by asking your Senator to oppose S.165.

Polluter Amnesty 

In 2012, the Pollution Control Act was amended to substitute the citizens’ “cause of action” over unlawful pollution for a process allowing citizens to challenge DHEC if it fails to prevent pollution. A “savings clause” was included to ensure constitutionality and to protect the “citizens’ right to sue over unpermitted pollution that occurred prior to the passage of the compromise.
S.229, the Polluter Amnesty Bill, is up for debate in the Senate. This bill equates to issuing an unconstitutional amnesty for past, unpermitted pollution undoing the “savings clause” that was included in the Pollution Control Act (PCA) compromise and was agreed to by all parties in 2012. The agreed upon Savings Clause preserved all pending actions, suits, and all rights, liabilities and duties as they existed before the act was included in the Act that was passed on June 6, 2012 (as required by the Constitution). S.229 would amend the Savings Clause to preserve only pending actions and suits, with no protection of rights, liabilities and duties to sue for clean-up of past, unpermitted pollution that we may not even know about yet.
This bill is currently on “special order” in the Senate, which means it’s up for debate and may soon be up for a vote. Please take action to ask your Senator to oppose S.229.


We are closely following renewed efforts to reopen the Barnwell nuclear waste site. A bill has not been filed in the Senate yet, but we are already advocating against any changes to the Atlantic Compact. Gov. Haley spoke in opposition of changing the Atlantic Compact last week. Please check out several recent editorials on the issue: The Statethe Rock Hill Herald, and the Aiken Standard.

Thank you to Rep. Limehouse, Quinn, Hixon, and Sottile for introducing a bill this week to oppose any changes to the Atlantic Compact. 

Coastal Protection 

Two of our coastal bills are in Senate subcommittee this week. We look forward to good testimony from our partners. We need your help telling your Senators to vote no on the Kiawah amendment and support S.139. This bill will implement the recommendations of DHEC’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management (BRC) which was charged with reviewing SC’s landmark Beachfront Management Act and recommending regulations to help guide the stewardship of beachfront and estuarine shorelines. 

S.522 is special interest legislation which threatens to eliminate all protections afforded by the Coastal Zone Management Program (CZM) to about 90% of Dorchester County. Through the CZM, South Carolina’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) has the authority to review state and federal permit applications in the coastal zone to balance economic development with coastal protections. Please tell Senator to oppose S.522.

Please save the date for the 12th Annual Conservation Lobby Day and Legislative Reception on April 15th! To review the schedule and RSVP, please visit conservationlobbyday.eventbrite.com

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