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Legislative Updates: February 19 - 23

February 27th, 2024
By Megan Chase-Muller

Advocates gathered on the Statehouse steps on February 6 for Conservation Lobby Day

Highlights

  • Advocacy Opportunity: Join us at the Statehouse on Tuesday. Speak to lawmakers about the Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act (H.5118).
  • Trails Tax Credit Bill moves to full Senate Finance Committee
  • Senate Agriculture Committee hosts an important conversation on surface water
  • View the State Budget adopted by the House Ways and Means Committee

Happy Monday!

Lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill that would allow utilities to build many energy projects without public input or regulatory oversight. The Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act (H.5118) has the potential to help South Carolina meet its energy needs, but the bill requires significant changes to bolster renewables and energy efficiency first and to ensure proposals to build new gas plants, pipelines, and transmission lines go through adequate review.

´╗┐Read below for how to talk to your legislator about this bill and for more Statehouse news.


Take Action on the House Energy Bill

Join us at the Statehouse Tuesday to talk to lawmakers about the SC Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act (H.5118)

Last week’s deep dive on the SC Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act (H.5118) underscored the need for a balanced approach to meeting our energy generation needs. As drafted, the bill prioritizes building natural gas pipelines and gas plants but falls short of offering the same level of incentives for solar and energy efficiency.

Read more about the anticipated effects of this bill here.

Interested in telling your story and voicing your concerns about the bill? The committee will hear from anyone who wants to speak about H.5118 for 2–3 minutes on 2/27. Send an email to mchase@upstateforever.org if you would like to speak about the bill.

If you can’t join us on Tuesday:

  • Reach out to your legislator about the issues with the South Carolina Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act (H.5118). Tell them you want meaningful changes to the bill to protect ratepayers and balance gas promotion with provisions that bolster renewables. We also need to make sure communities have a voice in decision-making related to proposed gas plants and infrastructure. You can find their contact information here.
  • Submit written comments to bryantriplett@schouse.gov about your concerns with the South Carolina Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act (H.5118). 
  • Talk to your neighbors about this bill! This affects all of us.

New from the statehouse

Trails Tax Credit Bill on the move

The Trails Tax Credit Bill (H.3121) cleared a Senate Finance subcommittee last Thursday and will be considered by the full Senate Finance Committee next week. This bill has been championed by Spartanburg Representative Max Hyde and has remained a priority for us since it was introduced.

A Senate committee turns its attention to surface water

Last week, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held a meeting on the “Status of Surface Water in South Carolina,” a topic that has been top of mind for Upstate Forever for decades. In a packed committee room, Senators heard from DHEC on the regulatory landscape that governs surface water management. They also discussed the update to the State Water Plan, a mammoth effort led by DNR, that is likely two years from completion but will be transferred to the new Department of Environmental Services on July 1, 2024 (an outcome of the 2023 DHEC Restructuring Bill).

The Committee announced it would meet regularly to discuss these and other topics on the management of our water resources. We hope that through open and honest conversations with stakeholders, scientists, and regulators, the Committee will identify and champion changes to the way our water resources are managed to better support our state’s residents, natural resources, and economy. Stay tuned for future meetings on this topic and opportunities to weigh in.

Take a gander at the first draft of the State Budget

The House Ways and Means Committee met twice this week to adopt the FY 2024–2025 state budget. With revenues returning to pre-pandemic (i.e., pre-federal-stimulus) numbers, we should temper our expectations to see record-setting conservation funding continue. With Greenville Representative Bruce Bannister leading the way as Chairman, however, we are confident that the Committee will continue to honor its commitment to conservation.

You can view the adopted budget here.

Budget highlights:

  • SC Conservation Bank: $12.1 million in recurring funds, $13 million in nonrecurring
  • SC DNR: $0 for land conservation ($40 million was requested to protect over 6,000 acres of critical habitat for wildlife and public access areas)
  • SC Parks, Recreation, and Tourism: $12 million in nonrecurring funds to develop newly acquired property into state parks
  • SC Office of Resilience: $30 million in nonrecurring funds for the Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund

Want a refresher on how all the land conservation budgets fit together? Click here.

What’s next? Over the next two weeks, the budget will head to the printer and then be given to legislators to review before it’s taken up by the entire House of Representatives the week of March 11.


The Week Ahead

Tuesday (2/27), 1 hour after adjournment: The Environmental Affairs Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee will take up the NPDES Sign Bill (H.4958). Several of the subcommittee members are from the Upstate and could benefit from hearing their constituents’ support of this bill. You can find that list here and reach out to them here

Tuesday (2/27), 1.5 hours after adjournment: The above mentioned House LCI Public Utilities Subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.5118.

Tuesday (2/27), 3:00 pm: The full Senate Finance Committee will take up the Trails Tax Credit Bill (H.3121). You can watch that hearing here.


Thank you to everyone who has taken action on these issues!

Be on the lookout for additional opportunities to get involved throughout the Legislative Session and learn more about the issues that affect our daily lives. We’ll continue to keep you informed on their progress and ways to get involved throughout the legislative session! 

Until next week...

Megan Chase-Muller
State Policy Director
mchase@upstateforever.org


Odds and Ends and Actions:

Did you receive this Update as a forward and want to sign up for it yourself? You can do so right here. The Legislative Update will hit your mailbox every week 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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