August 11, 2014

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The South Carolina Generally Assembly ended its 2014 term in early June, having considered a number of proposed bills with environmental implications.  In a March 27th blog post, we summarized several key environmental bills then before the House and Senate.  Now that the 2014 term has come to a close, the fate of many of these bills has been determined.

Amendments to the Pollution Control Act:  In March we reported that a proposed amendment to the Pollution Control Act’s Savings Clause provision was in the Senate’s Committee on Medical Affairs. The amendment would eliminate the ability of third parties to bring an action under certain limited circumstances to enforce the PCA.  Since that time, the Committee has issued its report. On May 20th, a majority of the Committee ruled favorably on the bill. The bill was subsequently sent to the State Senate but not voted on this term. The Senate may return to the bill when it reconvenes for the 2015 term next spring.

Solar Energy:  On June 2, 2014, Governor Haley held a ceremonial signing for S. 1189, the S.C. Distributed Energy Resource Program Act, which allows citizens more affordable access to solar energy by permitting them to lease solar panels for their homes or businesses rather than having to pay the higher costs associated with purchasing and paying upfront for installation of the panels.  Additionally, the bill ensures that residents who generate solar electricity and sell the energy back to the power grid will receive a fair price.

The legislation represents a compromise between solar energy proponents and utility providers.  Governor Haley praised the legislation:  “We’re celebrating today because this law breaks down barriers to solar energy access, making it easier for individuals and businesses to take advantage of the projects and opportunities that can cut costs and make energy usage more efficient.”
Surface Water Withdrawal:  Various bills aimed at amending the Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, Use and Renewal Act have stalled. H.4794 would have put a moratorium in effect for any future registrations or expansion of existing registrations for surface water withdrawals through 2015. Currently, H. 4794 sits in the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. S.970/H.4760, which would require agricultural users to obtain permits when their withdrawals reach certain limits, suffered a similar fate, being referred to committee but receiving no hearings or votes. H.4817 fared likewise.
Funding for the South Carolina Conservation Bank:  Funding for the Conservation Bank ended up being capped at last year’s authorization level of $9.8 million, a figure lower than some conservation advocates had anticipated.
We blogged earlier this year about several other bills with environmental implications.  H.3827, which was designed to expedite environmental permit appeals, failed to pass, though the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, which supported the bill, has promised to pursue a similar bill in 2015.  Last, amendments to the Energy Independence and Sustainable Construction Act were signed into law in early April. For information on these amendments, see here.