HomeColumbiaAdvocacy groups gathered outside State House to protest the new environmental bill

Advocacy groups gathered outside State House to protest the new environmental bill

Columbia, South Carolina – In a display of public dissent, numerous environmental advocacy groups, including the Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC), gathered outside the South Carolina State House on Tuesday afternoon. Their gathering was in direct opposition to the ongoing discussions within the State House regarding the contentious environmental bill, H.5118, also dubbed the “South Carolina Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act.” This assembly of environmental proponents marked a vivid illustration of the growing concerns over the direction of energy policy in the state.

Bill H.5118, which saw its first introduction and reading on February 15 by a bipartisan cohort of sponsors, proposes a series of reforms aimed at revamping the state’s energy landscape. Among its key proposals, the bill advocates for a reduction in the number of Public Service Commission members from seven to three, a move that would see the General Assembly holding approval powers over these appointments. This restructuring is posited as a strategy to mitigate the cost, delay, and uncertainty often associated with planning, siting, and constructing new generation and transmission resources for the state’s customers.

Further, the bill outlines ambitious plans for the construction of larger, more fuel-efficient, and lower-emitting units. This initiative is juxtaposed with efforts to minimize the environmental and land-use impacts traditionally associated with the natural gas pipeline and transmission infrastructure necessary for supporting separate units. Additionally, the legislation encourages significant state energy providers such as Dominion Energy, the Public Service Authority, and both Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress to re-evaluate certain electrical generation facilities, introducing considerations for their future operations.

A particularly noteworthy aspect of the bill is its provisions for the joint ownership of electrical generation and transmission facilities between the public service authority and investor-owned electric utilities, alongside the empowerment of the commission to green-light requests from any electric supplier aiming to serve transformational economic development project customers under specified conditions. Moreover, it aims to catalyze the expansion of natural gas pipelines across selected coastal counties of South Carolina.

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Despite the bill’s proponents highlighting its potential to streamline and enhance the state’s energy infrastructure, environmental groups across South Carolina have voiced vehement opposition. Critics argue that the bill essentially extends a “blank check” to some of the state’s most influential energy corporations, raising alarms over the potential environmental and socio-economic repercussions.

The crux of their concern lies in the belief that the bill’s current trajectory could significantly undermine sustainable energy progress and environmental conservation efforts within the state.

For and against the South Carolina Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act

“This event directly opposes H.5118, which presents significant risks for the state’s energy future, the CVSC said in a statement. “Most notable is the proposed authorization for a ‘blank check’ to build a massive combined cycle gas plant in Canadys, a site in Colleton County near the banks of the Edisto River. This project would tie ratepayers to cost volatility, pollution, and public health impacts until around 2070.”

During the meeting, CEOs and officials from multiple energy companies and advocacy groups went to the stand to discuss their support, or disagreements, of the bill. These included officials from Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, which covers the majority of South Carolina.

“We’ve got 20% growth on our gas business in Horry County and Myrtle Beach,” said CEO of Dominion Energy South Carolina W. Keller Kissam, according to WIS-TV. “We’ve been trying to do for three years, what I consider a minor pipeline extension, that parallels what we have, and we’ve been held up by an environmental group out of North Carolina for three years.”

Kissam continued, “people in South Carolina want natural gas.”

Read also: Reminder: Applications for S.C. State Fair 2024 College Scholarships and Expands Program are open until March 15

In the 3-hour discussion, members discussed complications in the bill, including the wording of some key phrases involving plans for new facilities.

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