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May 16th, 2022
By Megan Chase
The South Carolina General Assembly wrapped up its 2022 Legislative Session this week, closing out the second year of a two-year session. Building off the successes of last year, the conservation community has much to celebrate, especially considering there were multiple budgets and a bevy of controversial issues prioritized by the House and Senate leadership. Read below for a rundown of all the progress we made this session, none of which would have been possible without collaboration and support from our partners at the SC Conservation Coalition!
The County Green Space Sales Tax Act (S.152) – authorizes counties statewide to establish up to a 1% sales tax by referendum to purchase and enhance county green spaces. Counties could exercise “home rule” to protect critical natural areas in their communities or improve access to existing green spaces.
The Eminent Domain Moratorium (H.3524) - extends the moratorium on unregulated, private petroleum pipeline companies' ability to use eminent domain until we can develop regulations to protect property rights and local waterways from pipeline spills. We now have until June 30, 2024 to create the regulatory framework for these pipelines.
The Solar on Superfund Bill (S.901) - Sponsored by Upstate Senator Danny Verdin, this bill extends the sunset for tax credits granted to large solar projects that are located on Superfund and brownfield sites and makes a few clarifications to the bill that was passed in 2019. With the recent news of the SC Public Service Commission’s rejection of a residential rooftop solar program from Duke Energy, the passage of S.901 will help to enable creative solar development in our state. Learn more about the impacts of this decision on the SC solar industry here.
The Hazardous Waste Cleanup Bill (H.4999) – a bill shepherded by Upstate Representative Davey Hiott, creates a system where companies responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites could apply to use site-specific cleanup standards rather than the statewide standards DHEC currently requires. Site-specific standards are already in use on certain federal CERCLA sites and can take into account future land use and risks to potential receptors (i.e., drinking water, residences). We will work with DHEC as they begin to implement these new standards to ensure Upstate communities are protected.
The Storm Damage Securitization Bill (S.1077) – Senate President and Upstate Senator Thomas Alexander introduced this bill to allow electric utilities like Duke Energy to use a financing mechanism called securitization, which allows utilities to issue low-cost bonds to cover the cost of damages from the many major storms that have hit our state over the past few years, rather than including those costs in a traditional rate-base. What is the benefit of this bill? Issuing storm recovery bonds will result in lower monthly bills for customers.
Remember that the Pyrolysis Bill (S.525) was signed into law back in February. The bill that could usher a wave of plastic pyrolysis facilities to our state now requires financial assurances to cover the cost of environmental cleanup, but that requirement would sunset after five years. Until then, we – and more importantly, DHEC, can assess the risks and environmental compliance history of the industry. If we find that these facilities cause environmental damage, like this pyrolysis facility that caught fire, we'll revisit the need for additional protections. Thanks to diligent work by our partners and compromises offered in both the House and Senate, we now have basic protections from these facilities — something no other US state has been able to accomplish.
As is usually the case with the last week of session, bill passage can be down to the wire with all sorts of wonky amendments added at the last minute. We saw that happen with the E-Waste Bill (H. 4775), introduced by Rep Davey Hiott, which authorizes the E-Waste recycling program under DHEC until 2029 and clarifies the process for disposing of certain types of E-Waste (think: old computers, monitors, and TVs) to ensure it doesn't end up in landfills. This bill was amended at the last minute in the Senate to include the language from the Plastic Pellet “Nurdles” pollution bill (S.596) Can they do that? Absolutely. The nurdles bill sought to close a loophole and require handling of these pellets to follow existing laws to prevent spills in South Carolina's coastal and inland waters.
The Offshore Wind Joint Resolution (H.4831) – Ushered by Greenville Rep Jason Elliot to direct the Department of Commerce to study the potential growth of the offshore wind industry, including supply chain manufacturing, this resolution became a vehicle for backlash against the now-defunct Carolina Panthers deal (read how that happened here). The bill now heads to conference committee where we hope to see the original intent of this good legislation restored.
Yes, this means several of our priority bills, like Spartanburg Rep Max Hyde's Trails Tax Credit Bill (H.3120), the Conservation Enhancement Act (H.4956), and the PFAS Bill (S.219) did not make it to the finish line this year — and that's ok! We have accomplished a tremendous amount these past two years and will continue to do the work necessary to get these bills passed early next session.
With the passage of the Sine Die resolution, legislators ended the official 2022 legislative session, but the resolution outlined items they can come back in the off-season to work on — like the budget, ARPA Round 2 funding, bills in conference committee, and Governor vetos. While we hit pause on the weekly Legislative Updates until next year, you may receive occasional updates throughout the off-season with news on these and other fun topics!
Until next year...
State Policy Director
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