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Legislative Updates 2019: Week 10

Legislative Updates 2019: Week 10

March 17th, 2019
By Shelley Robbins

Duke Chokes Solar, Net Metering Resolution Filed

The highlights:

  • Duke hits net metering deadline Friday with no action
  • Gambrell files a short-term residential fix
  • Third solar hearing is Wednesday — action needed
  • Plastics "Ban Ban" hearing is Wednesday — action needed
  • Lobby Day and Oyster Roast is Tuesday!

The details:

Residential net-metering in Duke Energy Carolinas territory (most of the Upstate) came to a screeching halt on Friday, March 15, as a deadline extension from last fall hit without a replacement policy. We are hopeful — but do not have confirmation — that Duke will continue to accept new net-metering customer applications and hold them in a queue until solar issues are resolved in the Statehouse.

In an effort to help the impending net-metering crisis, Senator Gambrell (Anderson) introduced a joint resolution S. 657 on Thursday that requires the extension of net-metering until July 1. This resolution still must go through the Statehouse process, but we hope that it will be placed on an expedited path. SCE&G voluntarily extended their deadline, but Duke did not.

The state has already lost jobs while the solar bill flails in sub-committee and utility-scale installations in Duke Energy territories are stuck in an unnecessarily cumbersome interconnection process (while similar installations in SCE&G territory are not). Duke Energy continues to hold up the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act (H. 3659) in the Senate (it passed unanimously by the House last month). The bill has massive statewide support from both citizens and industry (see this amazing letter of support from thirty-one of state's top companies). A third sub-committee hearing will be held Wednesday.

Duke Energy, a regulated monopoly, is continuing to ask for changes that will make competitive utility scale solar projects unfinanceable. Read here where it is doing the exact same thing in Florida — squeezing out solar competition to protect its monopoly control of the market. This policy delay and Duke's interminable interconnection queue choked solar growth in South Carolina in 2018 (see graph above from the Solar Energy Industries Association).

Enough. Ask your Senator to insist this bill get moving here.

Plastic Bag "Ban Ban" Assault on Home Rule:

S. 394, unfortunately co-sponsored by Upstate Senator Scott Talley, gets another sub-committee hearing on Wednesday, March 20. We are hearing from so many of our Upstate councilpersons that they oppose this over-reach. In case you missed them, here is an excellent op-ed by Spartanburg City Council member Alan Jenkins that summarizes our own opposition to this bill. And this op-ed by Arcadia Lakes mayor Mark Huguley further explains local concerns. And this article by Sammy Fretwell from The State indicates that micro-plastic pollution has even been found in Columbia drinking water. A quick poll this past week by the Greenville Journal indicated an interest in exploring local action, and this is a significant change from previous years (161 Journal readers voted — 66% in favor of and 34% against a plastic bag fee).

We believe that local communities should have reasonable flexibility in how they respond to plastics pollution and that this bill sets a dangerous precedent for other issues such as local fees and design standards. Read more about the issue here. Upstate Senators Tom Corbin and Mike Gambrell sit on the subcommittee, so if they are your senator, please ask them to oppose this bill here.

Other Energy Bills We Are Watching

Upstate Representative Davey Hiott's H. 3483 that strengthens protections against coal ash contamination passed the House on the floor unanimouslypassed out of its Senate sub-committee this week and is awaiting a full committee hearing. Thank you to Upstate Senator Rex Rice for shepherding this bill in the Senate.

Upstate Senator Danny Verdin's S. 362, passed the Senate and has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill creates a tax credit for large solar projects that are built on Superfund and Voluntary Cleanup sites. This bill gets these stabilized contaminated sites that cannot otherwise be developed back on the county tax roles producing both revenue and clean energy. This concept is a perfect win-win. We thank Upstate Senators Glenn Reese (Spartanburg) and Rex Rice (Pickens) for adding their names to this bill.

We will be in the 11th week of the 18 week session, so these two good bills still have time. If they start to stall, however, we will let you know.

Lobby Day and Oyster Roast!

The Annual SC Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast will be Tuesday, March 19 and registration for the FREE event is now open! Register here for part or all of the day. And if you need a ride to and from the Upstate, contact Ben Cardew at CVSC here. The day starts at 10am in the Capital City Club overlooking the Statehouse grounds, where you will get advocacy training, followed by a trip to the Statehouse. The day ends with everyone's favorite oyster roast at 701 Whaley St. in Columbia. This is the same day as Upstate Forever's Crossroads Campaign celebration in Greenville, so we will see you in Columbia in the morning but will miss the oysters. And we do love oysters.

Odds and Ends and Actions:

Did your senator or representative do something awesome this week? Tell them! Use this link to find out who represents you, and if you love a bill they are supporting, please let them know. You can also just use the link to tell them what is important to you.

If opposition to offshore seismic testing and drilling are your passion, you can take action here.

Until next week! 

Shelley Robbins
Energy and State Policy Director

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