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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.
January 27th, 2019
By Shelley Robbins
Plastic bags and containers continue to be a hot topic at the local level, especially on the coast where plastics are increasingly having fatal impacts on marine life. We are seeing increasing microscopic plastic particles in our oysters. So when we in the Upstate are eating South Carolina oysters, we are eating that plastic pollution. Plastics and the marine environment clearly cannot co-exist in a healthy manner. To combat this problem, many of our South Carolina coastal communities have passed locally-driven ordinances aimed at reducing this kind of pollution. Every community should have that right - to address specific problems in a way that works for them. These ordinances, such as plastic bag, plastic container, and styrofoam bans, are generally driven by citizen involvement — they are not heavy-handed, top-down government overreach.
So we were very disappointed to see that Upstate Senator Scott Talley filed a bill (S. 394) this past week that takes that right away from local communities. This flies in the face of home rule, the principle that allows communities to devise local solutions to local problems. Indeed, this bill is a perfect example of heavy-handed, top-down government overreach. This bill, which has been filed and defeated in years past, is the product of lobbying by one South Carolina company, Novolex, which is headquartered in Hartsville but provides no manufacturing jobs whatsoever in this state. We will oppose this bill if it begins to move, and there is an action center where you can take action here.
We have highlighted the two landmark House and Senate energy bills, S. 332 and H. 3659 in the previous two Legislative Updates. During the past week, they each gained co-sponsors, and we are happy to see that Upstate Senator Glenn Reese added his name to the Senate bill and Upstate Representative Gary Clary has signed on to the House bill. We expect to see additional support from the Upstate added this coming week.
Members of our Upstate delegation have added several great new energy bills to those being considered as well. Here's the run-down:
H. 3344, co-sponsored by Representative Josiah Magnuson, allows businesses to choose which electric service provider they want to buy power from.
H. 3751, co-sponsored by Representative Gary Clary and Representative Jason Elliott, is a bill overhauling state-owned utility Santee Cooper. This bill is important statewide but also to the Upstate. Greenville's Pacolet Milliken (along with Duke Energy and others) has submitted a bid to purchase Santee Cooper. Read about that here.
H. 3641, co-sponsored by Representative Gary Clary, strengthens the requirements of Public Service Commissioners and allows the PSC to request an audit of regulated utilities.
H. 3642, co-sponsored by Representative Gary Clary, creates a new Utility Oversight Committee to replace the Public Utilities Regulatory Committee, or PURC. The new committee shuffles the power structure, increases public participation on the committee, and gives the Governor authority to appoint four members of the general public (appointments to the PURC are controlled by the Legislature).
We are on Day 27 of the 100 Day Clean Energy Agenda (cleanenergysc.com), an effort to get meaningful energy legislation passed that will protect solar industry jobs in South Carolina while injecting competition into energy markets. Upstate jobs are in immediate jeopardy (see last weeks' Update). Take action by clicking on the website and telling your legislators that they need to move quickly.
We continue to support and applaud H. 3483, filed by Upstate Rep. Davey Hiott (Chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee) which strengthens protections against coal ash contamination.
And we continue to applaud the bills filed by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (H. 3336) and Upstate Senator Danny Verdin (S. 362) that would provide for tax credits for solar development on Superfund sites. Senator Verdin's bill extends the credits to Voluntary Cleanup Sites as well. This is an excellent way to make these sites economically productive again and we wholeheartedly support these bills and hope to see more Upstate co-sponsors and action on these bills soon.
If opposition to offshore seismic testing and drilling are your passion, you can take action here.
Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director