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February 8th, 2021
By Shelley Robbins
Four weeks down, fourteen to go in the 2021 session. The House is working on the budget, and the Senate confirmed a new Director for the beleaguered SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, naming Edward Simmer as head of the 4,000+ person agency. Read more here. And Senate President Harvey Peeler wisely stated this week that due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, there will be no events or receptions associated with the Legislature through the end of March.
South Carolina continues to be a magnet for industries that specialize in attracting out-of-state waste, and we continue to push back on efforts to roll back the regulations that keep them at bay. This week, committees in both the House and the Senate will hold hearings on bills that open the door wide to trash incineration (in the House Bill 3753) and remove plastics chemical recycling facilities from the DHEC oversight that ensures they do not become abandoned dumps and a burden to taxpayers (in both bills, including Senate Bill 525).
Incineration: South Carolina law currently limits the size of incinerators, allowing small specialized industry incinerators to continue to function while preventing massive ones such as those found in the northeast (where land prices and density limit the availability of traditional landfills). These northern incinerators are struggling with rising costs and environmental compliance failures. Indeed, one of the largest incinerator builders, Covanta, is rethinking its strategy, has closed northeastern facilities, and is looking for more lucrative opportunities (read more here). There is speculation that Covanta is targeting a piece of property near Rock Hill that has rail line access. Legislators have been misled into thinking such a facility can solve South Carolina's landfill capacity problem. But South Carolina doesn't have a landfill capacity problem (see graph below). We have plenty of capacity, without the need for new landfills or incinerators, for years to come for in-state waste, especially if we continue to divert more of our organic waste into composting facilities. South Carolina has planned well. An incinerator would be a far more expensive and dirty disposal option that would not serve our own residents and businesses (and no, they do not generate energy). They are simply a way to manage waste from New Jersey.
Plastics: It would be lovely if there was a magic bullet for our plastics problem. But there simply isn't, short of reducing our consumption of the unnecessary plastics. While it is technically possible to manipulate petroleum-based plastics back into their petroleum components, the processes (one of which is called pyrolysis) are complex and expensive and therefore financially risky in the current market. Pyrolysis facilities can currently be permitted in South Carolina — there is nothing prohibiting them from doing business here. But the American Chemistry Council (an arm of the petroleum industry) is back again trying to get DHEC oversight removed from the front-end of the process. If either of these bills pass as written, then DHEC cannot require the same financial assurances for these facilities as they do for other recycling facilities and processors. This transfers the risk and cost of failure and cleanup from the industry to the taxpayer.
We have a Conservation Coalition Action Center here, where you can send your concerns specifically to YOUR representative with just a few clicks (with the option to customize your message, which is always recommended!).
On Monday, a Senate finance subcommittee will take testimony from Santee Cooper, Central Electric Power Cooperative (the coordinating power purchaser for the state's electric cooperatives and Santee Cooper's largest customer), and the Office of Regulatory Staff. You can tune in to that hearing here. This will provide a good opportunity to get up to speed on Santee Cooper. For more information about why Upstate Forever takes a very active interest in Santee Cooper, read more here in a previous update. There was no forward movement on any of the Santee Cooper bills we are following, but Upstate Forever was able to address the SC Public Service Commission this past week to explain Upstate pipeline intensity, and we are grateful for that opportunity. You can watch our presentation and a valuable discussion with Upstate Commissioners Mike Caston and Tom Ervin here.
H. 3120, the Trails Tax Credit Bill we featured here has gained even more co-sponsors this week, including Spartanburg Representative Travis Moore as well as Representatives Weston Newton, Kirkman Finlay, Chip Huggins, Nathan Ballentine, Micah Caskey, Chris Wooten, and Heather Crawford. The co-sponsors are geographically diverse across the state and many sit on the House Ways and Means Committee. This is an encouraging sign that the bill will be taken up by the Ways and Means Committee right after they finish budget deliberations.
And finally, a bill that will remove a significant barrier to electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure will get a hearing on Wednesday. H. 3582, sponsored by Upstate Representatives Bill Sandifer and Jay West, clarifies that EV charging stations that purchase electricity and then resell to for EV drivers is not considered a utility and therefore not subject to PSC regulation. This bill has been filed in previous years and seems like a no-brainer to us. We will be supporting this bill and other EV bills, and we're so glad to see this one moving. Pun intended.
Until next week...
Energy and State Policy Director
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