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March 15th, 2020
By Shelley Robbins
What a difference a week makes! Last week we were getting excited about the Annual South Carolina Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast on March 24. An analysis of the potential impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and our collective responsibility to protect our vulnerable populations has necessitated a change of plans. This decision was an easy one: Protecting citizens from harm, whether it is by advocating for stronger water quality standards or fighting dirty fossil fuel infrastructure, is what the conservation community does every day.
We will miss seeing everyone face to face. And we will miss those oysters (a lot). But the SC Conservation Coalition is hard at work finalizing the details of a "virtual" or online Lobby Day experience. So please continue to hold some time on March 24, and I will share the details with you next week if not sooner.
As of now, the Statehouse has not cancelled any meetings, but even if they do, we can still communicate with our legislators via computer or phone.
We were excited to see that the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Environmental Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Thursday, March 19 for both Senator Sheheen's Thirty-By-Thirty Conservation Act (S. 1024) and his Organic Waste Reduction Study joint resolution (S. 1022).
I outlined the South Carolina Thirty-By-Thirty Conservation Act here. Protecting land and water quality is the heart of our work, so this bill is very important to us. I will reiterate those sobering statistics from last week. In the Upstate alone:
The Conservation Coalition has created an Action Center for the Thirty-By-Thirty bill here.
Senator Mike Gambrell of District 4 (Abbeville, Anderson & Greenwood Counties) is a co-sponsor — please thank him here!
We are also pleased to see the issue of organic waste finally getting some attention. S. 1022 directs SC DHEC to develop a five-year plan to reduce the amount of organic waste South Carolina produces and sends to landfills.
According to the EPA, food waste makes up 15.2% of what we send to landfills, yard trimmings 13.1%, and paper and paperboard 25%. Combined, that's more than half of our waste! And all of that can be either recycled or composted, dramatically extending the life of our existing landfills, reducing the production of methane (a potent greenhouse gas), reducing how bad landfills smell, creating a product that nourishes our agricultural soils, and creating jobs! Growing our commercial composting industry is a 360 degree win.
Did you know that Spartanburg is home to Atlas Organics? Upstate Forever has been a fan of this fast-growing company for years. Atlas serves large customers like grocery stores and hospitals but they also have a curbside organics pick-up program called Compost House. (Disclaimer: I am a very proud and enthusiastic customer of Compost House.) By recycling and being a Compost House customer, basically the only things in my trash roll cart are kitty litter, some glass, and weird plastics. Imagine if every household and business had this opportunity!
Greenville Senator Dwight Loftis serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, where this bill currently resides. Please ask him to support both of these bills by e-mailing him here.
The RTO and Electricity Market Reform Joint Resolutions were discussed here: the House version (H. 4940) passed on the floor 81-31, passed out of Senate subcommittee this week, and heads to full Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 17. This meeting will be livestreamed and you can watch it here. The Santee Cooper deliberations continue to illustrate that South Carolina can no longer stomach the "business as usual" stance when it comes to power production and distribution. Distributed renewables, energy efficiency, and increasingly storage have become the lowest cost option, but the current paradigm only offers barriers. It is time to study our options.
The House will be on furlough this week after passing the state budget last week. The requested SC Conservation Bank funding and a rollover proviso both passed. The budget now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.
The Black Market Wildlife Trading Bill (H. 4831, aka The Turtle Bill) passed the House, sailed through committee in the Senate and now will hopefully be taken up on the Senate floor soon. 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.
A 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.
The House offshore drilling bill H. 3087 and the Senate offshore drilling bill S. 870 are both still awaiting floor votes. Greenville Senator Dwight Loftis has contested the Senate bill, preventing it from getting a vote. You can e-mail him here to respectfully ask him to remove his name from the bill (and support 30x30 and Organic Waste Reduction, see above).
H. 4776 which increases the time a PSC commissioner must wait after leaving office to represent a client before the PSC, passed the House and awaits a Senate Judiciary hearing. Upstate co-sponsors include Representatives Eddie Tallon, Rita Allison, Max Hyde, John McCravy, and Gary Clary.
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. Here is a great article from Rolling Stone about how we got here in the first place.
Senator Sheheen's S. 1023, a joint resolution directing DHEC to study microplastics pollution, passed out of a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee and has a full committee hearing March 19.
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Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director