How Upstate Forever is responding to COVID-19

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.

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Legislative Updates 2020: Week 8

March 8th, 2020
By Shelley Robbins

Lobby Day March 24, Action Needed on PFAs and 30x30

The highlights:

  • Conservation Lobby Day and Oyster Roast set for March 24
  • New Action Centers for PFAs and 30x30
  • Turtle Bill sprint
  • Bills we are following

The details:

Join us for Conservation Lobby Day March 24!

The Annual South Carolina Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast is set for Tuesday, March 24, and Upstate Forever would like to invite you to head to Columbia with us for an amazing day in the Statehouse with fellow conservation supporters from across the state, followed by a free oyster roast sponsored by the SC Conservation Coalition. We will even provide transportation if you need it! It just doesn't get any better than that.

Register here and also send me an e-mail if you would like to ride with us. We will depart the UF Greenville office (507 Pettigru St.) at 8 am to head to Columbia. The first stop is the Capital City Club, where you get to see the view of the Statehouse that I use every week at the top of my Legislative Update. What a great view! There, we will get some advocacy training about the conservation issues of the day and Senator Greg Gregory will chat with us.

Then we will head across the street to the SC Statehouse, truly one of the most beautiful state capitol buildings in the country. We will speak with legislators, literally "in the lobby." From 5:30 to 8 pm, we will gather at 701 Whaley for the best oyster roast in Columbia, featuring oysters from Bowen's Island Seafood as well as vegetarian chili, beverages, and great music. Then we will carpool back home. There may even be an opportunity for an early return vehicle if there is enough interest.

This shows just how much we want you to feel comfortable getting involved at the Statehouse on conservation issues — it's free, we will drive you there and back, and there will be oysters. In addition, the Conservation Coalition will conduct a webinar the week prior to prep you even more if you still have trepidations.

The last few years have really proven that when we work together, we get things done. I hope you will join us on March 24!

New Action Center for PFAs and 30x30

Speaking of getting things done, the Coalition has created two new action centers that you can use to communicate directly with your legislators about two sets of bills I outlined in earlier Legislative Updates.

The first pair of House and Senate bills (H. 4718 and S. 1111) require SC DHEC to set limits on the family of perfluoroalkyl substances (known as PFAs) in our water. Read more about this issue here. Take action on the PFAs bills here. They haven't moved yet and need a nudge. Establishing a state limit without waiting for a sluggish federal response will help impacted communities get access to resources they need, such as clean drinking water, faster. Upstate co-sponsors to date include Senators Shane Martin, Floyd Nicholson, Scott Talley, and Rex Rice and Representatives Leola Robinson, Jason Elliott, and Gary Clary.

I outlined the South Carolina Thirty-By-Thirty Conservation Act here. The Senate bill S. 1024 now has a House companion, H. 5125. In the Upstate alone:

  • We pave over and develop 65 acres, the equivalent of Heywood Mall and its parking lot, every day.
  • Our ten-county population is projected to reach nearly 1.75 million by 2040 — an increase of 64% since 1990.

Protecting land and water quality is the heart of what we do, so these bills are very important to us. Take action on the Thirty-By-Thirty bills here. Upstate co-sponsors to date include Senator Mike Gambrell and Representatives Gary Clary, Max Hyde, Mark Willis, Jason Elliott, and Bobby Cox.

View both action centers together here. You can always customize your message, and please thank your legislator if he or she has already signed on to the bill! We will also talk about these issues on Conservation Lobby Day.

The Turtle Bill nears the finish line

In classic "hare and tortoise" style, the Black Market Wildlife Trading Bill (H. 4831, aka The Turtle Bill) may be the very first of our tracked bills to pass both chambers. The House bill passed out of the full Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee this past week and heads to the Senate floor. If the bill arrives uncontested, it could pass quickly without getting tied up behind Santee Cooper deliberations. Read about the details and background on the bill here. Our Department of Natural Resources needs to have the tools necessary to keep our native amphibians and reptiles from winding up as part of black market overseas trading.

In the House this coming week, debate will begin on the state budget, and we are advocating for increased funding for both the SC Conservation Bank and for the State Water Plan. Next week (March 16-20), the House will be on furlough. The Senate will be largely consumed with Santee Cooper.

Bills We Are Following

The House offshore drilling bill H. 3087 and the Senate offshore drilling bill S. 870 are both still awaiting floor votes.

The RTO and Electricity Market Reform Joint Resolutions were discussed here: the House version (H. 4940) passed on the floor 81-31 and has a Senate subcommittee hearing scheduled for March 12. The Senate version (S. 998) has not moved, but this is okay since the House bill has.

H. 4776 which increases the time a PSC commissioner must wait after leaving office to represent a client before the PSC, passed the House last week and awaits a Senate Judiciary hearing. Co-sponsors include Representatives Eddie Tallon, Rita Allison, Max Hyde, John McCravy, and Gary Clary.

House and Senate HOA Solar Access Bills (H. 5011 and S. 1032) have not yet had subcommittee hearings. I discussed those bills here .

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.

Senator Sheheen's S. 1024, the South Carolina Thirty-By-Thirty Conservation Act, and its House companion H. 5125 both await subcommittee hearings. See above for for information and an action center.

Senator Sheheen's S. 1023, a joint resolution directing DHEC to study microplastics pollution, had a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee hearing March 5 and awaits a full committee vote.

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.

Until next week!

Shelley Robbins
Energy and State Policy Director

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