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Legislative Updates 2019: Week 14

Legislative Updates 2019: Week 14

April 14th, 2019
By Shelley Robbins

Solar finally hits the floor; coal ash passes

The highlights:

  • The Energy Freedom Act H. 3659 hits the Senate floor! Action needed
  • Good coal ash bill PASSES
  • Solar on Superfund advances
  • Coming up: Senate on the budget, House on furlough

The Details:

The Energy Freedom Act aka the Solar Bill H. 3659 passed unanimously out of full Judiciary on Wednesday and is now on the Senate calendar. The Senate will not take the bill up this coming week, so we will have only three weeks (really nine days) to get this bill past its final hurdle. If you have not contacted your senator, now is the time!

Let your Senator know that you support more solar and more competition in South Carolina here. You can use the pre-drafted message or you can customize your message (which is always more effective — they want to hear why their vote matters to you personally).

Here is a great new article about the bill and its journey from the Greenwood Index Journal. As stated in the article, the committee voted to "advance legislation loosening regulatory burdens while offering customers unprecedented access to providers of the power source." That sums it up perfectly.

If you would like to attend a lobby day in Columbia that week, the Sierra Club is hosting one on April 23. Sign up and see more information here.

Coal Ash Bill Crosses the Finish Line and Solar on Superfund Advances

Upstate Representative Davey Hiott's H. 3483 that strengthens protections against coal ash contamination passed both chambers unanimously. It now awaits the Governor's signature. Well done!

Upstate Senator Danny Verdin's S. 362, passed the Senate and finally got a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, where it was unanimously approved. It has two more steps — full Ways and Means and then the House floor. 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.

This Coming Week: Senate on the Budget, House on Furlough

The Senate will focus exclusively on the budget this coming week. The state budget originates in the House Ways and Means Committee, is sent to the House floor for debate (this happened a few weeks ago), and then crosses over to Senate Finance before being taken up by the entire Senate chamber. Once the budget is approved by the Senate, it must go back to the House for concurrence on any changes. If the House disagrees with any of the changes, those items go to Conference Committee to negotiate compromise. The House will take a break from the action this week and go on furlough (the Statehouse equivalent of spring break). We have been monitoring the SC Conservation Bank budget throughout this process and we will report on the final outcome.

Other Bills We Are Watching

The Plastics "Ban-Ban" bill S. 394 was voted out of full Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry this week but cannot become law this year with only a few weeks left. Here is good coverage of the vote from the Post and Courier, and we do think Senator John Scott from Columbia makes a good point: “The problem is really not plastic, it’s litter.... What do we do to reduce the litter? Until the state takes a stronger approach on recycling, we’ll be back here again.” And did you know that a plastic bag has an average working life of 15 minutes? Read more about plastics proliferation here.

The dueling offshore drilling resolutions (one for, one against) were both heard in subcommittee, and they both passed out and are now in full House Agriculture committee. While they both missed crossover, they could still serve to indicate how the House chamber as a whole feels about the issue. Here is a great article by Sammy Fretwell at The State about the hearing and an impressive eighth grade speaker. Before this makes it to the House floor, be sure to tell your legislators how you feel about the issue here. Upstate investment in coastal properties is significant, so we are all put at risk.

An omnibus energy regulatory oversight reform bill, H. 4260 (the South Carolina Ratepayer Protection Act) passed out of the House and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill strengthens energy regulatory oversight for investor-owned utilities by ensuring there are no conflicts of interest among the various regulatory and oversight bodies (such as the Legislature's own Public Utilities Regulatory Committee, the Office of Regulatory Staff, and the Public Service Commission), protects whistleblowers, and ensures regulators meet qualification standards. Upstate Representatives Gary Clary (Pickens) and Bill Sandifer (Oconee) have both signed on to this bill. In addition, H. 4261, which increases the oversight for Santee Cooper, also passed the House and awaits a Senate Judiciary hearing. You can read a summary of both bills here. Our electric cooperatives buy power from Santee Cooper, so anything affecting the state owned utility affects us in the Upstate.

H. 3656, the Complete Streets Bill, explained here several weeks ago, got a hearing last week but will not make the crossover date of April 10, so we will continue to work on this bill through next year.

We have been monitoring H. 4152, a bill that tries to address the problem of "hard to recycle" plastics by using pyrolysis to convert them back into a liquid petroleum product. We have researched the process and acknowledge that this might be an acceptable alternative to the current landfilling of these items with proper safeguards, but the concept is relatively untested and the bill is far too broad right now and opens the door to abuse. The bill did not make crossover but is currently on the House calendar, and we are still working to get the bill amended. If this is not successful, we will work to kill it. South Carolina does not need to be the guinea pig on this issue.

ODDS AND ENDS AND ACTIONS:

Would you rather receive these weekly Legislative Updates in your inbox? You can sign up to do so right here. The Legislative Update will hit your mailbox every Sunday evening during session (January through May).

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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