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April 17th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller
With the House taking a break last week, we followed progress in the Senate on the Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act and other legislative efforts. Read below for a breakdown of last week’s news and an opportunity to make your voice heard on accountability for natural gas pipelines.
Missed last week’s update? Click here for a recap of our Conservation Lobby Day!
Speak up for property rights and pipeline accountability at the SC Public Service Commission
Upstate Forever believes in public accountability when utilities make decisions that affect communities and landscapes across the Upstate. We support any effort to build public trust in the utilities that heat and supply electricity to our homes.
New regulations proposed last year at the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) would help increase transparency in the construction of natural gas pipelines and use of eminent domain by pipeline companies. They establish communication standards and a landowner bill of rights to ensure residents receive adequate and consistent information. They also require natural gas utilities to disclose certain environmental and community impacts.
The PSC is accepting testimony from the public on April 25th and 26th at 10 am on these proposed regulations, and they need to hear from residents and advocates like you to better understand how pipeline projects impact you and your community. If you have been frustrated by a lack of transparency and information when natural gas pipelines are proposed, this is your chance to weigh in and make the process better.
Without support from residents like you, Commissioners are less likely to pass these positive reforms. To support these regulations, sign up to testify by April 24. Virtual and in-person options are available.
Comments can be as short or extensive as you would like! Just be sure to be personable, tell your story, and communicate why this matters to you. Remember, this is not just a property owner issue – all gas customers end up footing the bill for pipeline projects, so we need more public accountability throughout the entire process. Learn more about these proposed regulations here.
Farmland Protections Advance
The Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act (H.3951), a priority bill that would help farmers protect their land with conservation easements, passed quickly through the committee process last week with an amendment that adjusts funding mechanisms, program oversight, and timing. The bill now heads to the Senate floor, so please consider reaching out to your Senator to ask for their support of this bill!
Through our work with Upstate landowners and farming communities, it’s clear that more farmers need access to financial tools to compete with the threat of development. The program proposed under H.3951 would leverage state dollars to provide modest financial compensation to qualifying landowners in exchange for a conservation easement.
Upstate Forever currently has over 11,000 acres of active farms protected through our land trust. We believe all farmers should be able to maintain the legacy of their land and that this bill would help to address financial barriers with conservation easements.
Prioritizing Energy Efficiency
Two weeks ago, we were thrilled to see a bill filed by Representative Deon Tedder (H.4282) that would launch a suite of programs to build the energy efficiency economy in South Carolina. As we hasten the transition to cleaner energy sources and electric transportation, we need to ensure the systems that deliver that energy to and within our homes and businesses are as efficient as possible. South Carolina ranks as one of the least energy-efficient states in the country (49th out of 50), so it is imperative we prioritize solutions such as those presented in H.4282 to bring relief to residents and business. Our partners at Conservation Voters SC gave a great overview of this bill that you can read here.
Until next week...
State Policy Director
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