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February 17th, 2019
By Shelley Robbins
The South Carolina Energy Freedom Act (H. 3659) aka The Solar Bill made it out of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry (LCI) committee this week and will be on the House floor next week. The language in this bill has changed some since it was originally filed but the current language is an intensely-negotiated compromise crafted by the House LCI committee after hearing from the utilities, solar companies, the Office of Regulatory Staff, the conservation community, and other advocates such as AARP. Much like Act 236 in 2014, no party thinks it is perfect. But it definitely does move the state forward on renewable energy and keeps the current residential rooftop terms in place for two more years before sending the issue to the Public Service Commission for long-term supervision. Read coverage of the LCI meetings here. We THANK Upstate Representatives Gary Clary (Pickens), Max Hyde (Spartanburg), Bill Sandifer (Oconee), Mike Forrester (Spartanburg), Craig Gagnon (Anderson), Eddie Tallon (Spartanburg), and Jay West (Anderson) for signing on to support renewable energy and clean energy jobs.
ACTION NEEDED this week: tell your House member that you support this bill here. And if your House member signed on, thank them! The link will direct you to your legislator.
The companion Senate Solar Bill, S. 332, will get a sub-committee hearing on Wednesday, February 20 at 12:30. This will likely be an educational hearing (no vote) but you can tune in here to learn more about the bill and the House LCI compromise language. We are also delighted that Upstate Senators Glenn Reese (Spartanburg), Scott Talley (Spartanburg), and Karl Allen (Greenville) have signed on to support S. 332.
Upstate Representative Davey Hiott's H. 3483 that strengthens protections against coal ash contamination passed the House on the floor unanimously and is awaiting a sub-committee hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Upstate Senator Danny Verdin's S. 362, passed unanimously out of sub-committee and will get a full committee hearing on Tuesday, February 19. You can tune in here to watch the live broadcast. 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 this week.
Switching gears, another bill we support is H 3656. This bill requires the SC Department of Transportation to implement a Complete Streets policy with the goal of improving publicly funded highways in urban areas (and we have a lot of those) to provide safe and efficient accomodation for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. The rendering above helps us visualize "complete streets." As our urban areas become more popular, it is an economic boost to local businesses if citizens feel comfortable walking. This is the very essence of a vital and successful downtown. There's a popular adage: "Cars don't buy things. People buy things." And people have to be comfortable outside of their cars. But our local cities are getting resistance from SC DOT (which controls so many of our roads) when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure, and as a result, pedestrian deaths are up and innovative pedestrian-friendly projects in our downtowns are harder to plan and less welcoming than they should be. We will keep you posted if this bill starts moving.
Here is an excellent op-ed by Spartanburg City Council member Alan Jenkins that summarizes our own opposition on S. 394 — the Plastic Bag "Ban Ban" Bill. We believe that local communities should have reasonable flexibility in how they respond to plastics pollution. Read more about the issue here.
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.
We are on Day 48 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. Take action by clicking on the website and telling your legislators that they need to move quickly.
If opposition to offshore seismic testing and drilling are your passion, you can take action here.
Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director