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Legislative Updates 2021: May 10-14

May 17th, 2021
By Megan Chase

2021 Legislative Wrap-Up!

Here's a wrap-up of where things stand at the end of the 2021 Legislative Session. Buckle up, there's a lot to recap.

Highlights:

  • End of the 2021 Legislative Session
  • Pro-conservation bills that passed
  • Bills to watch next year

The closing of the 2021 Legislative session last Thursday came with mixed emotions as I thought about the remarkable progress the conservation community made this year and the impacts our conservation partners and people like Shelley had on our shared legislative goals. We will certainly miss her passion for conservation, tenacity, and incredible insight.

Sine Die - End of the 2021 Session... for now

Despite the initial uncertainties leading into session, we ended with a more normal tone and with the familiar Sine Die adjournment, outlining the things legislators can work on in the offseason — between May 2021 and January 2022. In addition to finalizing the budget, legislators will come back in June to hear conference committee reports and take up vetoes from the Governor. They also plan to return in the fall to discuss federal Covid-19 funding and redistricting.

Good bills that passed

1) Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations (S. 304) will increase EV charging infrastructure throughout SC’s transportation corridors by removing a significant barrier for businesses to install them and charge users based on the energy they consume. Read more about EVs and this bill here. We thank Upstate Representatives Bill Sandifer and Jay West for sponsoring the House companion bill (H. 3582) and for their leadership in the EV conversation.

2) Waste Tires Regulations (H.3222) addresses stockpiled tire waste that has presented problems in SC and throughout the country. Read here about a SC facility that recently caught fire from improper management, releasing toxic chemicals in the air of nearby communities. This legislation empowers DHEC to set expectations for these facilities and educates users of good and bad actors to drive accountability on both ends. Thanks to Representative Davey Hiott (Pickens) for sponsoring this legislation.

3) Solar Property Tax Exemptions (H.3354) essentially will make solar more accessible for more residents by clarifying that solar panels should not be part of property tax assessments.

4) Electronic waste sunset extension (H.4035) – this bill extends the electronic waste recovery and recycling program for two years, providing necessary time to develop a better process for managing and disposing of e-waste and its toxic materials. Thanks again to the Upstate leadership of Representative Hiott for sponsoring this legislation.

Headed to conference committee

The Santee Cooper reform bill (H.3194) is headed to a conference committee where House and Senate versions of the bill will be deliberated. What we know is that the final product will include provisions for coal plant retirement and clean energy, increased oversight by the Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission, and an equitable transition for communities surrounding coal plants. As reported by Shelley in her last Legislative Update, this move helps to insulate the Upstate from further gas infrastructure burdens (think: pipelines)

Bills to watch next year

Pyrolysis (S. 525 ) – Momentum on the bill that would give the budding plastics pyrolysis industry exemptions from South Carolina’s solid waste regulations came to a grinding halt in the last hours of the 2021 session. After diligent work by our partners and compromises offered in both the House and Senate (thanks again to Spartanburg Senator Shane Martin), the clock ran out. Remember that we are in year one of a two-year session, and a conference to work out differences between the House and Senate is likely.

Upstate Forever and the SC Conservation Coalition have been working to improve versions of this proposed legislation for three years, and will continue to do so in the offseason. Read Shelley’s deep dive on pyrolysis here.

DHEC Reform (S. 2) will be on the minds of Senate leadership, conservationists, and public health experts as we enter the second year of the two-year session. Last month we heard testimony from several state agencies on the functioning of their programs and implications from the suggested split of the Department of Health and Environmental Control. You can watch recordings from those hearings here and read more about the bill here. With the additional time before the bill is taken up again next year, we should expect to see more stakeholder engagement and discussion among DHEC and the affected agencies.

The Trails Tax Credit Bill (H. 3120), filed by Spartanburg Representative Max Hyde, provides a tax credit (10 cents per square foot) to property owners who allow a permanent, public recreational trail easement on their property. You can read more about this bill here and expect to see support for it build as we enter into the second year of session. 

PFAS – The Drinking Water Contaminants Bill (H.3514 and S.219) would require DHEC to establish drinking water standards for PFAS (toxic), 1,4-Dioxane (also toxic), and Hexavalent Chromium (the ‘Erin Brockovich chemical’). Neither of these bills advanced out of their respective chambers this year, giving us time to assess new data collected by DHEC on the extent of PFAS contamination throughout the state’s drinking water systems. Upstate Forever and its conservation partners will continue to communicate the risks of these drinking water contaminants to communities throughout the Upstate. Read more about these two bills here.

Liquid petroleum pipeline eminent domain (H. 3524) would extend the moratorium on eminent domain used by for-profit liquid petroleum pipelines to 2022, giving stakeholders time to design a more permanent solution. Read Shelley’s excellent profile of this legislation and how it would benefit the Upstate here.

We’ll stay up-to-date on the work of the General Assembly throughout the summer and will continue our advocacy on the important conservation issues that impact the Upstate and its communities.

Until next year!

Megan Chase
State Policy Director

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.

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