January 13th, 2018
By Shelley Robbins
The first week of the 2018 Legislative Session was extremely busy! When we closed down the 2017 session last May, we (with your terrific help) were able to hold several bad bills in check (the attack on auto-stay, the nuisance bill, the attack on home rule aka the plastic bag “ban-ban”). But also still pending are some good bills - the reauthorization of the Conservation Bank, two solar bills, and a dam safety bill. The Legislature operates on a two-year cycle, so those issues - not having passed both the House and the Senate - are still pending.
In 2018, we will be adding some positive, proactive energy legislation to the mix in light of the V.C. Summer abandonment debacle. The House Ratepayer Protection Committee has actually been hard at work on this since the summer and has a package of bills - including one establishing a consumer advocate to work specifically on behalf of ratepayers - teed up and ready for debate. These bills have already been through committee in the House. We will go into more detail on these soon. But a summary of the conservation community’s energy priorities can be found here. Upstate Forever will be working to ensure that legislation promotes efficiency and renewables in a cost-effective manner that allows for innovation and opportunities for energy choices.
On January 10, we joined our conservation partners for an annual Senate briefing called Conversations With Conservationists. We gave a brief overview of our position on the issues listed above. A special thanks to Spartanburg environmental attorney Gary Poliakoff who addressed problems in the Nuisance Bills (H. 3653 and S. 323). Both bills are on the Senate floor but we are hoping they won't come up for vote right away.
Of immediate concern is the Auto-Stay Bill (H. 3565 and S. 105). The House bill is currently on the floor and will likely be taken up for a floor vote next week. The Senate bill passed the Senate last year and could make it to the House floor soon. These two bills weaken citizens’ ability to challenge permits believed to be issued in error. It is used judiciously by the conservation community to improve permit scrutiny but it is also used by businesses and even hospitals. The Stay acts as a pause button during the permitting process that allows the courts to assess facts and laws to determine if a permit should indeed be granted.
Contact your House Representative and ask them to oppose both of the Auto-Stay Bill (H. 3565 and S. 105). You can use either Find My Legislator and contact them directly or you can use the Conservation Voters of South Carolina action center link (both below).
Finally, please save March 20! That is the date set for Conservation Lobby Day and Oyster Roast. Upstate Forever will provide transportation from our Greenville office to Columbia in the morning. We will gather for information and training and then head over to the Statehouse to tell our Legislators what our important issues are this year. The day ends with a delicious oyster roast, an event that is well attended by Legislators and tons of fun. Stay tuned for more information or shoot me an email letting me know of your interest.
Thank you for taking action!
Energy and State Policy Director