Legislative Updates 2021: February 15-19

February 22nd, 2021
By Shelley Robbins

Week 6 in the Statehouse


Six weeks down and we are one-third of the way through the first year of this two-year session. House floor budget debate is still anticipated to begin March 22. Crossover, which we mentioned last week, is April 10, so any bill that does not "cross over" to the other chamber by that date is not likely to pass this year. But since the session lasts for two years, the bills that do not cross over by April 10 will automatically be carried over to Spring of 2022 without having to be re-filed.

Deep Dive: PFAS and Drinking Water

You can't clean harmful chemicals out of drinking water if you don't have a regulatory standard, or limit, for those chemicals. And right now, we know we have a problem with PFAS, a group of chemical compounds that have been used for decades in manufacturing to make our stuff waterproof, stain resistant, and non-stick (think Teflon and Scotchgard). These compounds never break down, and even low exposure to some of them has been linked to several cancers, infertility, liver damage, developmental effects in children, and a host of other health problems.

But our hundreds of public drinking water systems currently have no rules from DHEC telling them how much is safe.

To remedy that, Rep. JA Moore from North Charleston has introduced a joint resolution, H. 3514 that compels DHEC to review data and best practices nationwide and then establish a legal threshold for these substances, as well as hexavalent chromium and 1,4 dioxane. Senators McElveen and Shealy have filed a companion, S. 219, in the Senate. Neither of these joint resolutions has gotten a subcommittee hearing yet, but this is an important time to raise awareness of the issue among legislators and to add co-sponsors to both bills. To facilitate that, the SC Conservation Coalition has created a PFAS ACTION CENTER where, with just a few clicks, you can let your Senator and Representative know that this issue is important to you and you'd like their support.

We are grateful that Upstate Representatives Chandra Dillard, West Cox, Neal Collins, Adam Morgan, and Bobby Cox have all added their names as co-sponsors of the House bill.

To date, 15 other states including North Carolina, Virginia and Florida have adopted health guidelines or legal thresholds for these compounds, and many others are working on it. South Carolina does not need to wait for the federal government to take action first. Preliminary surveillance testing of the state's water systems, completed in 2020, indicates contamination is widespread across the state at varying levels, so time is of the essence.

Upstate Forever's Clean Water Advocate Megan Chase is our in-house expert on this legislation, if you have questions. And if this issue sounds familiar, yes, these compounds were the subject of the 2019 film Dark Waters. Are the newer chemicals that are being developed for our stick-less life any safer? Unfortunately, no. Read more here.

Senate Pyrolysis Hearing - A Close Vote

The Pyrolysis Bill, S. 525, was debated in the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee this week and narrowly failed to be amended with a requirement that these unproven facilities must provide financial assurances to protect taxpayers in the event of an accident or bankruptcy. The amendment, offered by Senator Sandy Senn, did not get the required majority vote (it was 8-8). The bill, without these protections, advanced out of committee 11-5. We are extremely grateful to Spartanburg Senator Shane Martin for his efforts to challenge the need for the bill in the first place, for his support of the amendment, and his no vote on passage.

Pyrolysis facilities can currently operate in South Carolina under our existing rules. The business model these projects are built on is unproven, and we think a financial assurances compromise is only fair. Read our Deep Dive on pyrolysis from a few weeks ago here. The bill now advances to the Senate floor.

Santee Cooper

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Santee Cooper this Tuesday at 10am. You can watch the livestream here. John Tynan from Conservation Voters of SC (CVSC) will be testifying.

CVSC has created an ACTION CENTER you can use to tell your Senator to put clean energy at the forefront of any plans to deal with the utility.

Read our Deep Dive on Santee Cooper and Upstate pipeline implications here.

Until next week...

Shelley Robbins
Energy and State Policy Director


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