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March 1st, 2020
By Shelley Robbins
It can be difficult for us in the Upstate to understand just how the Santee Cooper decisions will affect us, but consider the following: all of the Department of Administration-vetted proposals call for the building of new fracked gas generation at the VC Summer site in Fairfield County, which could mean yet another Dominion gas pipeline cutting through the Upstate to serve that generation. We currently already have three transmission pipelines branching off of the Williams Transcontinental interstate transmission pipeline (Transco) — two starting in Spartanburg County and one starting in Cherokee County. All three deliver gas from Transco, which crosses the Upstate, down to the rest of the state.
This generation outcome wasn't a coincidence. The DOA insisted that all proposals 1) start with the same load forecast and 2) assume the Atlantic Coast Pipeline won't be built. This sounds reasonable on the surface until you consider the unintended consequences for us in the Upstate: another pipeline in our region, with accompanying erosion, sedimentation, and eminent domain issues. The DOA parameters stacked the deck against the Upstate.
In addition, none of the proposals include aggressive investment in energy efficiency or demand-side management. Santee Cooper's largest customer is the electric cooperatives, and there is no mention of enabling them to increase solar generation and storage to reduce their purchased load. There is no consideration of forward-looking technology such as Green Mountain Power's virtual power plant program, an innovative investment that also increases resiliency during storm outages.
Gas plants are expensive, rely on a fuel fraught with environmental consequences and price volatility, and they either last a long time and commit us to fracked gas or they become a stranded asset. All of these characteristics cost ratepayers money. A fifth gas transmission pipeline through our Upstate backyard as an additional impact is simply unacceptable.
The House Ways and Means Committee will hear public testimony on the Santee Cooper proposals tomorrow (Monday, March 2 at 1pm). You can watch the livestream here. And we will keep you posted as events unfold in the coming weeks. We still think this will be a long process, but we don't like where it is heading.
In happier news, the Black Market Wildlife Trading Bill (H. 4831, aka the turtle bill, read more here) passed the House and will get a Senate Fish, Game and Forestry subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, March 4. We would love to see this bill sail through committee and end up on the uncontested calendar on the Senate floor, giving it a solid chance to pass this year.
In the chambers this week, we expect to see continued debate on the education bill winding down but still dominating Senate floor time. In the House, the budget debate has been pushed back another week, and the chamber schedule will be shorter to allow for more committee hearings on Santee Cooper.
The RTO and Electricity Market Reform Joint Resolutions were discussed here: the House version (H. 4940) passed on the floor 81-31 and awaits a Senate subcommittee hearing, as does the Senate version (S. 998).
The notorious Plastics "Ban Ban" bill S. 394 (discussed here ) is on the contested calendar on the Senate floor, where we hope it will stay. Thanks to Joyce Harrison for an excellent op-ed about plastics issues and legislation in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal!
Senator Sheheen's S. 1023, a joint resolution directing DHEC to study microplastics pollution, has a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee hearing scheduled for Thursday, March 5.
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Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director