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Legislative Updates 2022: February 21 - 25

February 28th, 2022
By Megan Chase

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  • Deep Dive: DHEC Breakup
  • News from the Statehouse

With several budgets and conservation-related bills flying through SC House and Senate committees, it can be overwhelming to make sense of what's important. Luckily, you can find quick summaries of relevant news each week at the Statehouse here, and read below for a recap of news from last week.

Deep Dive: DHEC Breakup

The future of SC's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) hangs in the balance as the Restructuring Bill (S.2) advances to the full Medical Affairs Committee this Thursday. This bill sparked controversy when it was introduced last Spring, proposing to split DHEC into two new cabinet-level agencies: the Department of Public and Behavioral Health and the Department of Environmental Services. UF worked with our conservation partners, DHEC, and members of the business community over the summer to identify sensible solutions to the challenges this agency faces. The stakeholder-led SHaPE SC Taskforce received over 400 comments from the public, many calling for adequate funding and prudent reform of the organization without significant restructuring.

How does this affect us? DHEC’s public health and environmental services cover many aspects of our daily lives that we don’t often consider (e.g., food safety, drinking water quality and protection, stormwater management, air and water pollution prevention, and dam safety, not to mention the vast array of health services) and those services could see substantial disruption by the restructuring this bill proposes. In its current form, the bill would also move DNR’s Water Planning Division (think: State Water Plan) to the new Dep. of Environmental Services. Among the many reasons why this would be detrimental for our state’s water resources, DNR’s trusted team of scientists should be left to complete the immense task of planning for our state’s future water needs. 

Should this bill move forward, there are ways to ensure it results in positive reforms for the state, including safeguarding DNR’s role in Statewide Water Planning, enhancing public engagement in permit decisions, and establishing a formal process by which internal agency decisions are based on the best science. The SC Conservation Coalition has proposed small changes to the bill that addresses some of these points. 

If you share our concerns over the bill as drafted, members of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee need to hear from you. You can watch that hearing here at 9 am Thursday.

News from the statehouse

The Solar on Superfund bill (S.901) is headed to the Senate floor. This bill would extend the 2021 sunset for tax credits granted to large solar projects located on brownfield sites and makes a few clarifications to the bill that was passed in 2019.

Record Funding for Conservation

The bill that establishes the state's operating budget for the next fiscal year is headed to the House floor, carrying with it record support for conservation initiatives, including:

  • $56.1 million for the SC Conservation Bank — an increase of almost $30 million from last year
  • $190.27 million for the SC Office of Resilience, much of which will fund land protection and flood mitigation efforts
  • $68.25 million for the SC Department of Natural Resources for land acquisition
  • $2.81 million for SC DNR to continue State Water Planning
  • $50 million for SC DHEC for water quality programming
  • $104.4 million for SC DHEC for a new laboratory
  • $25 million for SC DHEC for PFAS remediation in drinking water sources

Much of this funding is supportive of requests made by agencies and advocates earlier this year, signaling our state leaders are prioritizing conservation. These kinds of investments will ensure South Carolina provides clean air, water, and a healthy environment for future generations.

This week, the Senate Finance Committee will breakout into subcommittees to launch into their budget process, beginning by hearing from our state agencies.

Until next week...

Megan Chase
State Policy Director


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