Year In Review

Year In Review

S.C. Sierra Club 2023 Legislative Review

The 2023 S.C. General Assembly convened for the first year of the 2023-2024 state legislative session, and it was a positive year for the Chapter and Club on our priorities.

We continued to build on our efforts over the years, and in keeping with our Chapter’s progress, we had only proactive measures to support. This is a testament to conservation progress in South Carolina.

We successfully advanced and passed several bills and advocated to retain and improve upon many budgetary line items!

Below is an overview of the priority legislation worked on in 2023. At any given time during a legislative session one can visit our Chapter’s legislative tracker on our website. It does not encompass the full gamut of legislation being followed or worked on by the state’s larger Conservation Coalition, of which we are a member, but it is routinely updated.

Priority bills supported in 2023

  • The SC Ratepayer Protection Act: H.3614 is the "SC Ratepayer Protection Act," which we continue to support. The bill passed out of the House of Representatives unanimously before the "crossover" deadline of April 10th in the 2023 session, but it was not taken up by the Senate this year. It is pending consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it can be considered by the Senate in 2024 before the end of the two-year session.
  • Justice Forty: H.3198 is currently awaiting a hearing before the SC House Ways and Means Committee. It can be taken up during the 2024 legislative session.

H.3198 would create the “Justice Forty Oversight Committee” to study opportunities to address the issue of environmental justice through targeted efforts in certain communities, to instruct the composition of the committee, and to ensure the committee will submit recommendations to the White House to draw down funding from the federal government to address the issues the Committee identifies and includes in its final report.

The bill ensures the final report shall be submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council by December 31, 2024, at which time the study committee shall dissolve.

  • SC Conservation Enhancement Act: H.3786 passed out of the House of Representatives unanimously in 2023, so it can be considered by the Senate during the 2024 session. It is pending consideration before the Senate Finance Committee.

It's companion, S.280 has been filed and is pending consideration before the Senate Finance Committee.

H.3786 and its companion S.280 would restore dependable revenue streams for land protection and management to the SC Conservation Bank and to other state agencies that own, lease, or manage lands for public use. The companion bills provide for the following.

  • Regulations for Public Water Contaminant Levels: H.3498 and H.3499 would originally have required SC DHEC to promulgate regulations that establish statewide minimum contaminant levels (MCLs) for the following pollutants in public water systems: PFAS, PFOA, and PFOS compounds; chromium-6; 1, 4 dioxane; and, any other public water system pollutants for which at least two other states have established MCLs or issued public health guidance.

It will need to be amended to apply to either the newly created Department of Behavioral and Public Health or the newly created Department of Environmental Services.

For decades, these toxic ‘forever chemicals’ have been manufactured and used in firefighting foam and waterproof, stain resistant, and non-stick products. Now, they are causing widespread impacts on the health of our children, families, and military personnel.

We will ensure the law is fixed to ensure appropriate regulation of currently unregulated petroleum pipeline companies who have threatened to use eminent domain in years past. Additionally, if we are unable to get this legislation passed, we will ensure the moratorium on these companies' use of eminent domain is extended in the 2024 legislative session.

H.3155 seeks to establish the framework for the appropriate regulation of petroleum pipeline companies and their ability to use eminent domain.

  • Sea Turtle Protection Act: S.133 has been filed and is before the Senate Fish, Game, and Forestry Committee. It can be taken up during the 2024 legislative session.

S.133 establishes the Sea Turtle Protection Act. It provides for the following regulation by SC DNR.

Section 50-15-710.  The department must establish designated coastal areas within the State which are utilized or are likely to be utilized by sea turtles for nesting. Once these designations are finalized, the department must publish a map of the coast with the designated areas clearly marked on its website.

Section 50-15-720.   (A)   No artificial light may illuminate an area of the beach designated by the department pursuant to Section 50 15 710. Any building plans for construction of a single family dwelling, multifamily dwelling, or commercial structure, or electrical plans associated with parking lots, dune walkovers, or other outdoor lighting, if the light can be seen from the beach, must comply with the following.

H.3184 is a bill which would make it unlawful for a person to approve a plan, license, application, or permit of any kind to construct or use property or infrastructure to facilitate Atlantic Ocean marine seismic testing to locate reserves of oil and natural gas or to transport or store Atlantic Ocean offshore oil or gas onto the land of this State. Infrastructure includes, but is not limited to, a pipeline, a tank, or any facility used in conjunction with Atlantic Ocean Marine Seismic testing, or the transportation or storage of Atlantic Ocean offshore oil or gas.

We were fortunately able to preserve the automatic stay under the newly created agencies, a policy we have long fought to preserve over the years which keeps in place the ability to stop work on construction activity when a government-issued environmental permit is being challenged.

S.399 disbands DHEC, creating separately the Department of Behavioral and Public Health and the Department of Environmental Services. The law retaining citizens' right to ask for pause to environmental permitting decisions, while reviewed, remains in place under the newly created agency.

  • State Budget:
    • $27,094,515 to the Conservation Bank in recurring funding
    • $25,000,000 for one-time conservation grant project funds via the Conservation Bank
    • $200,000,000 in one-time funds to DNR for habitat protection and land conservation acquisitions
    • $3,000,000 for in one-time funds to DNR for state water planning
    • $20,000,000 in one-time funds for the Office of Resilience for the disaster relief and resilience reserve fund
    • $11,750,000 in one-time funds to PRT for state park development, upgrades, and maintenance
    • $36,000,000 for dam safety under DHEC
    • $2,000,000 under the DHEC Pollutants Remediation Fund for PFAS remediation


Santee Cooper Reform Final Bill Overview:
South Carolina Act 90 of 2021 (H.3194)

• The Act further ensures lack of conflicts of interest among Santee Cooper (S-C) Board members and leadership staff and ensures appropriate qualifications of Board members.

• The Act ensures the executive branch and Senate are instructed to focus on diversity on the S-C Board and factor in “race, gender, and other demographic factors to assure nondiscrimination, inclusion, and representation to the greatest extent possible of all segments of the population of this State” in appointing/electing Board members.

• The Act, furthermore, puts S-C on the same playing field as investor-owned utilities (IOU’s) regarding Public Service Commission (PSC) oversight. S-C would be required to submit its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to the PSC for approval, denial, or alteration under a docket hearing, which would allow any intervenors the right to discovery and testimony.

• As part of formulating its IRP for submission, S-C must allow a public process to receive feedback from stakeholders. The Act directs S-C to protect ratepayers by focusing on cost effectiveness and new supply alternatives like renewable energy and participation with or purchase of a regional transmission organization (RTO).

• The IRP must include an effort to close the Winyah coal-fired power plant by 2028 and meet a zerocarbon emission goal by 2050.

• S-C further shall file for commission approval of a program for the competitive procurement of energy, capacity, and environmental attributes from renewable energy facilities to meet needs for new generation resources.

• Under the Act, any new S-C facilities (new power plants or other major investments) would be subject to review and approval by the PSC.

• The Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) is provided more oversight authority throughout the process.

• The Act further protects employees and communities as part of the process of retiring its coal units by mandating S-C shall develop and implement a plan, with community engagement and participation, that: (a) allows employees in good standing who would be directly affected by the closure of the unit to be retained by S-C, or provides training opportunities for related employment to affected employees in good standing who are not retained; and (b) provides an opportunity for economic development and job attraction in the communities where the retired coal stations are located.