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UPDATE: SC Conservation Legislation

A legislative update from our friends at Conservation Voters of SC…

Offshore Wind Industries: It’s been a journey, but we’ve ended up where we hoped we would. In the beginning, H.4831 directed the Department of Commerce to study how we could attract more offshore wind manufacturing to the state – creating green jobs and benefitting our economy. After news of the Carolina Panthers pulling out of their training facility deal in Rock Hill hit the papers, the Senate amended the bill to direct the Department to study how we can bring an offshore headquarters for the Panthers to our state. I watched it happen in a state of bemusement until the Senate unanimously adopted the amendment.

It came down to the wire, but after the House non-concurred in the Senate’s nonsensical amendments, the bill was sent to a conference committee to negotiate the differences. Happily, the Senate came to its senses and the original bill’s purpose was restored. The Governor signed it into law on June 17th.

 

Electronic Waste Recycling: As session so often does, this year ended in a little bit of chaos as law makers fought to tack their legislative priorities onto other bills in the final weeks. The E-waste bill (H.4775) was subjected to some of that chaos, with the nurdles bill (S.596) added to it as an amendment on third reading in the Senate. The House and Senate’s conference committee ended up removing the amendment and the original language to the bill was restored. The governor signed this bill into law on June 17th, and we are glad to see the landfill ban maintained and our electronic waste being appropriately disposed of.

 

Permit Extensions: The permit extension bill, S.17, was introduced last year and would extend nearly every permit by five years due to the slowdown in the economy in 2020. The bill passed the Senate and was amended in the House to broaden the permit extension time period all the way back to 2016. Unfortunately, it looked like the Conference Committee was going to agree on the House’s version, but time got away from the Senate before they could take a vote. What does that mean? The bill is dead, and that is good news.

 

Budget: When the Senate took up the House’s budget, we saw vastly different priorities between the two. With so much money to spend, we were disappointed in the Senate’s version which under-delivered on needs in the conservation space.

After weeks of negotiations, we are pleased to announce that the General Assembly has come to an agreement that we can be proud of:

  • The PFOS, PFOA, and Emerging Pollutants Remediation Fund was appropriated $10-million dollars in order for DHEC to finish its monitoring strategy and to begin giving out grant money in communities where it’s needed most. These forever chemicals have been in the news a lot recently, as the EPA recently announced that almost no amount of PFAS exposure is safe.
  • This year’s budget also allocated $68-million dollars between DNR and the Conservation Bank to protect and conserve green spaces across the state.

 

The Supreme Court: The changes to the makeup of the Supreme Court in recent years, and the lack of congressional action, has resulted in huge changes in how our laws and our constitution are interpreted. This will have far-reaching effects on how our State General Assembly governs.

Today, the Supreme Court issued its opinion on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, which challenged the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. Unfortunately, the Court’s decision limits the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate those emissions. This represents a huge risk to current strategies employed federally and across the country to address climate change. The opinion has only just come out, so CVSC will be working hard to keep abreast of these changes and adjust our strategies as necessary.

In addition, the General Assembly’s Sine Die resolution usually says that the House and Senate will return to deal with conference committee reports and budget issues and then adjourn for the remainder of the year. This year’s Sine Die, however, carves out one more week of session in the off-season for the House and Senate to consider legislation drafted in response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Woman’s Health Organization. If you have questions or concerns regarding this case and its effects in our state, we encourage you to visit the Women’s Rights Empowerment Network website for answers and resources and the latest on what happens when lawmakers return this Summer/Fall.

 

Though the news from the Supreme Court today and in recent weeks has been sobering and alarming, the team at CVSC is going to keep doing what it does best: protecting the South Carolina we love by fighting for our air, water, land, and energy at the General Assembly. It is all we can do. We encourage you to take time for yourself in the coming days, and then continue to join us and others in this fight.

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