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May 10th, 2021
By Shelley Robbins
As we begin the last week of the 2021 Legislative session, we have some exciting news to share! Starting Monday, May 10, I will be working on resilient power policy for the Clean Energy Group, an impressive non-profit based out of Montpelier, VT. I'm delighted to announce that Upstate Forever's superb Clean Water Advocate Megan Chase will take over as Policy Director, and she will be taking over the Legislative Update starting next week. Megan has been a leader on state water policy issues, and she's a master of the science that drives regulatory decisions. I could not be leaving you all in better hands. Welcome to the Legislative Update, Megan!
I leave you all with a mere three days left in this session, and since the budget is going to get a facelift by the House during May and June, there is little drama left on conservation issues. You can keep track of the budget bills here: H. 4100 and H. 4101.
We can confidently predict the outcome of two of our bills.
S. 304, Electric Vehicle Charging Stations was amended on the House floor to add a Joint Committee on the Electrification of Transportation. As a reminder, this committee is charged with studying a host of issues, including the environmental, economic and customer benefits and challenges associated with EV adoption and the impact of EVs on the grid. The amendment also requires the SC Public Service Commission to open a docket to identify regulatory challenges and opportunities associated with vehicle electrification, such as grid integration of EVs, grid investment needed, changes in utility generation mix and load, rate design and load management strategies that can help mitigate negative impacts and optimize positive impacts, and data and privacy issues, among others. The amendment also codifies the work of the current EV Stakeholder Initiative, an effort launched by the SC Office of Regulatory Staff and facilitated by the Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Upstate Forever is part of this current stakeholder effort.
The bill is now on the Senate calendar for the coming week. Either they will concur with the changes and it will head to the Governor's desk or they will not concur and the bill will head to a conference committee of three Senators and three House members to work out the final language and then it will head to the Governor's desk.
The Santee Cooper reform package that was crafted by the Senate and amended into H. 3194 was debated on the House floor this past week. The Senate-amended bill requires the state-owned utility to be regulated in a way that is similar to the investor-owned utilities (Dominion and Duke Energy). A sale provision was not included and NextEra withdrew its offer to buy Santee Cooper.
On May 4, the House took up the Senate amendments and further amended the bill, focusing on three categories: regulatory process, governance/oversight, and the establishment of a process to set up a sale in the future. Of relevance to the Upstate, the regulatory process changes actually strengthen the Senate language, requiring strict scrutiny over any new gas construction projects and requiring Santee Cooper to prove there is no alternative to building new gas capacity. Given Santee Cooper's lackluster historic investment in energy efficiency, demand-side management, and renewables and the possibility of purchasing excess capacity from other utilities, Upstate Forever fully supports the House's language. It provides for much more scrutiny of Santee Cooper's future generation decisions and strengthens renewables and other non-fossil fuel options (thereby lessening, though not eliminating, the risk of yet another Upstate pipeline project).
The Senate did not concur with the House changes, and now the bill, H. 3194, will go to conference committee. The conference committee will consist of House Speaker Jay Lucas, Ways and Means Chair Murrell Smith, and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford as well as Senate Judiciary Chair Luke Rankin, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, and Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto. The role of leadership on the conference committee is significant. After conference committee, it will head to the Governor's desk.
H. 3120, the Trails Tax Credit Bill filed by Spartanburg Representative Max Hyde will not pass this year unless an alternative vehicle can be found for its inclusion. Work will continue on this bill next year. Read more about the bill here.
Thank you all for your many kind words over the years, and welcome to Megan!!!
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