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Our Greenville and Spartanburg offices have closed while Upstate Forever staff work from home to help protect the health of each other, our families, and our communities. But while we are not together in the office, we remain together in our continued efforts to protect our region's critical lands, waters, and unique character.
April 28th, 2019
By Shelley Robbins
We have only two weeks left (six working days) in the 2019 session. The Senate spent most of this past week debating the sale of Santee Cooper, leaving H. 3659 (the Energy Freedom Act) languishing on the calendar. A vote is possible this week, however, and your communications with your senators are sending them the signal that this needs to get to the floor! So please continue to reach out directly or use the Conservation Coalition Action Center (it's so easy!). If you have not yet contacted your senator, now is the time!
In media this past week, we saw two very interesting articles. First, Kevin McCarthy, the Director of Special Projects at Love's Travel Stops — a chain of gas stations with 10 locations in South Carolina — wrote a great op-ed in support of the solar bill. Let that sink in: a company that relies on the sale of fossil fuels sees tremendous value in solar. And then we saw this great article about a project in the Piedmont of North Carolina where they will be testing the efficiency if bi-facial (two sided) solar panels. North Carolina continues to lead on solar and it is mind-blowing that Duke Energy serves both states but our policies are so different. The Energy Freedom Act will change that. Let's pass it!
After some good debate during which House members made it clear that no one really understands H. 4152, the Plastics Pyrolysis Bill, the House ultimately passed it 63-27 (see the vote count here). House Ag Chairman Davey Hiott insisted on the floor that this process (which takes waste plastics and uses pyrolysis to gasify and distill them back into petroleum products) is essentially a manufacturing process and should not be impeded. He has a point, but that manufacturing process ultimately produces benzene, toluene and other carcinogenic and flammable liquids. This process is new and largely untested, so we do not believe it should proceed in South Carolina without enough oversight to protect citizens. The bill cannot become law this year, and we will continue to work to improve it in the Senate.
Last week, we reported that the House had not yet taken a majority position on offshore drilling while the Senate overwhelmingly voted against it. This week, the duelling drilling resolutions in the House will be taken up by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee on Tuesday, April 30, one hour after adjournment. Then we do expect to see the issue taken up on the floor in these final two weeks. The House goes in at noon Tuesday, so we expect the meeting to start no earlier than 2pm but it will not be livestreamed, unfortunately. The agenda is here.
Upstate Senator Danny Verdin's S. 362, Solar on Superfund, passed the Senate and now is before the full House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, April 30. See the agenda here. It will be livestreamed here. The House convenes at noon Tuesday so the livestream likely won't start before 1:45. (Of note, because Ways and Means Chair Murrell Smith is out of the country, this will be the first time this powerful committee will be chaired by a woman — Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg. It's about time. Mrs. Cobb-Hunter also sponsored the House companion bill, so we know we have her support.)
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.
At 9am on Wednesday morning, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to confirm a new director for the SC Conservation Bank. The bank's board has proposed Raleigh West be confirmed as ED. Raleigh is currently executive director of the Lord Berkeley Land Trust. He is a South Carolina native and has both an MBA and a law degree. The meeting will be livestreamed here.
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Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director