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March 22nd, 2021
By Shelley Robbins
As we head toward the April 10 crossover date, the pace has picked up. We have a lot of bill updates, including an unexpected floor fight on S. 525, the Pyrolysis Bill (see below). We had a great time with Virtual Lobby Week, and thank you to our participants! The budget will be debated on the House floor this coming week starting Monday, after which they will take a one week furlough. The Senate has been holding committee-level budget hearings in anticipation of receiving the House budget the week of March 29. Right now, we do not anticipate a Senate furlough week.
Pyrolysis is a process that can be used to convert waste plastics into a liquid that can be used to make new plastics or can be further broken down into its fossil fuel components. The process is complex, fairly new, and companies are still trying to develop a sustainable and profitable business model. This is difficult when the main virgin component of plastic (ethane) is cheap to begin with — it is a byproduct of fossil fuel refining. So Upstate Forever is skeptical that the nascent industry process (that produces a much more expensive input for plastic) has staying power. That industry, represented by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), asked to be excluded from South Carolina's solid waste rules in S. 525.
Upstate Forever and the SC Conservation Coalition have been working to improve the ACC's proposed legislation for three years, and that all came to a head this week on the Senate floor. S. 525 had been on the contested calendar after passing out of committee with some minor revisions (Upstate Forever testified at the subcommittee hearing several weeks ago). During negotiations, the ACC emphatically insisted that financial assurances to protect South Carolina taxpayers were a deal breaker.
In a surprise move on Tuesday, Senate leadership pulled the bill to the Senate floor for debate, and the fireworks ensued. As we did at the subcommittee hearing level, we are giving a special shout out to Spartanburg Senator Shane Martin. Senator Martin proposed an amendment that requires plastics pyrolysis companies to put up financial assurances, allowed the Department of Commerce to cover those costs if they choose to, and sunset the financial assurances after five years, giving the industry time to prove itself. He made the excellent argument that if the process is as safe and stable as industry claims, a bond should not be expensive. Ultimately, Senator Martin's amendment was denied a vote, but his floor oratory set the stage for the rest of the debate.
After two days of debate, including six straight hours on Wednesday, impassioned arguments from both sides, and scrambling in the lobby by the conservation community's superb lobbyists, amendment language was finally agreed upon around 7:30 pm that gives DHEC the ability to require financial assurances, requires a report to the General Assembly in two years on the state of the industry, and sunsets the financial assurances after 3 years.
S. 525 passed the Senate and now awaits a hearing in House Ag. Sammy Fretwell at The State covered the floor fight here. Learn more about the pyrolysis bill here in this great Lobby Week issue video featuring our conservation experts and Senator Sandy Senn. You can also read our Deep Dive on the issue here.
The bill that extends the electronic waste recovery and recycling program (H. 4035) passed the House 110-0 on March 17 and now awaits a hearing in Senate Ag. Upstate Forever supports this bill.
The liquid petroleum pipeline eminent domain bill H. 3524, profiled here, passed out of subcommittee on March 16 and full committee on March 18. It is now on the House floor. Upstate Forever testified in favor of this bill.
A bill we have not yet profiled, H. 3683, the Ratepayer Protection Act, passed out of subcommittee on March 17. This bill further tightens the rules that govern the SC Public Service Commission, the Office of Regulatory Staff, and the Public Utilities Review Committee. It is sponsored by Speaker of the House Jay Lucas and Chair of House Labor, Commerce and Industry Bill Sandifer (Upstate), a strong indicator that it will keep moving. Upstate Forever supports this bill.
SC Conservation Bank Senate Budget hearing Tuesday, March 23 at 3pm, will be livestreamed here.
Confirmation hearing for State Chief Resilience Officer nominee Mr. Benjamin Duncan will be livestreamed here at 10am on March 25.
Until next week...
Energy and State Policy Director
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