Monday, February 21, 2011

Say NO to Environmental Rollbacks!


Defending against rollbacks of environmental protections has always been a Common Agenda priority. This year, a number of bills aim to undermine the management of South Carolina’s fragile coastal resources. Two harmful bills will be considered by the House Environmental Affairs I Subcommittee (Rep. David Hiott- Chair, Bill Crosby, Chandra Dillard and Chris Murphy) on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. in Blatt Room 410. The Marsh Canal Dredging bill (H.3587, Rep. Tracy Edge) would allow the US Corps of Engineers to permit maintenance dredging by counties or municipalities of manmade recreatio! nal use canals conveyed to the State before 1970. Although the bill aims to permit dredging for a specific canal at Cherry Grove, it would open the door for increased dredging of coastal wetlands that are now under the protection of the Coastal Zone Management Act. The Pier Bill (H.3586, Rep. Nelson Hardwick) would allow the construction of piers seaward of the OCRM baseline as long as they are “approved by the local governmental body having responsibility for planning and zoning.” This bill inappropriately shifts the authority to allow construction seaward of the baseline from OCRM to entities that do not have the necessary experience or authority to adequately manage our coastal resources. Click here to email members of this Subcommittee to ask that they vote NO to these bills that will degrade our coasts.

Lobby Team Tuesday

Join us tomorrow, as the South Carolina Wildlife Federation and Camo Coalition come to Columbia to speak to legislators about DNR funding and Conservation Bank. Volunteers are not required to be experts on any issue. We will brief you beforehand and are available to answer questions the entire day. Rather than meeting at the Nickelodeon Theatre, this week's lobby team will meet in a special location- at the South Carolina Wildlife Federation office (215 Pickens St., Columbia, SC 29205) at 11:00 a.m., prior to carpooling to the State House lobby.

Additional parking is available on the street near the State House at blue and green meters, or in the parking garage located at Lady and Assembly streets. Business attire required, please. If you’d like to participate in future Lobby Team Tuesdays, please contact Debbie Parker at debbie@conservationvotersofsc.org or (803) 799-0716.

In the House

Phosphorus Bill (H.3470, Rep. Dwight Loftis) and Three Strikes Sewage Polluter Bill (H.3617 by Rep. Mike Pitts) PRIORITY

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Rep. Paul Agnew- Chair, Tom Corbin, Patsy Knight and Steve Moss) discussed both of these priority bills last week and heard testimony from the conservation community. The Subcommittee had a positive response and ultimately voted Rep. Mike Pitts' Phosphorus Bill, H.3470, out of Subcommittee with a favorable report. (The Subcommittee decided to use Rep. Mike Pitts’ phosphorus bill, H.3470 as the vehicle, not the Rep. Loftis bill, H.3467, which only has minor differences.) H.3470 would prohibit the use, sell or manufacture of dishwashing detergents containing phosphates, a harmful chemical found in our lakes and rivers. Phosphorus is already banned in 15 states because it kills fish and lowers recreational revenues and home values. After much discussion, the Three Strikes Bill, H.3617, was carried over for further consideration at the next Subcommittee meeting to allow stakeholders&n! bsp; time for negotiations. H.3617 would require any utility with three spills over 5,000 gallons in a 12-month period to undergo a comprehensive audit of what caused the spill and fix the problems identified. The conservation community continues to work with the wastewater utility industry to craft a bill that treats all utilities fairly and helps chronic violators come into compliance.

Marsh Canal Dredging (H.3587, Rep. Tracy Edge) and Pier Bill (H.3586, Rep. Nelson Hardwick) OPPOSE

The Environmental Affairs I Subcommittee (Rep. David Hiott- Chair, Bill Crosby, Chandra Dillard and Chris Murphy) will meet Thursday, Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. in Blatt Room 410 to discuss two potentially harmful bills. H.3587 (sponsored by Reps. Tracy Edge, Thad Viers, Nelson Hardwick, George Hearn, Alan Clemmons and Liston Barfield) would allow maintenance dredging by counties or municipalities of manmade recreational use canals conveyed before 1970 to the State for that purpose if the maintenance dredging is authorized by a permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers pursuant to the Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, or the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. All other department administered certifications for such dredging are deemed waived by the bill. We oppose this bill because it would allow the dredging of coastal wetlands that are currently protected under state law. H.3586 (sponsored by Rep. Nelson Hardwick, Alan Clemmo! ns, Dwight Loftis, Tom Corbin, Liston Barfield, Anne Thayer, Andy Patrick, George Hearn, Chris Murphy, Kevin Ryan, Thad Viers, Eric Bedingfield, Tracy Edge, Bill Herbkersman, Jenny Horne and Tommy Stringer) would allow the construction of piers seaward of the OCRM baseline as long as they are “approved by the local governmental body having responsibility for planning and zoning.” The conservation community opposes this bill because it inappropriately shifts the authority to allow construction seaward of the baseline from OCRM to entities that do not have the necessary experience or authority to adequately manage our coastal resources. Click here to email members of this Subcommittee to ask that they vote NO to these bills that would degrade ! our coasts.

Natural Resource Agency Funding- PRIORITY

Forestry, agriculture, outdoor recreation and tourism account for $54 billion, or about one-third, of our economy. That’s over 450,000 jobs, or 25% of all jobs in South Carolina. However, the combined budgets of South Carolina Agriculture Department, Forestry Commission, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism account for less than one percent of the state budget. The full House Ways and Means Committee (Rep. Dan Cooper - Chair, Rita Allison, Mike Anthony, Liston Barfield, Jim Battle, Kenny Bingham, Bill Clyburn, Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Tracy Edge, Bill Herbkersman, Lonnie Hosey, Chip Huggins, Chip Limehouse, Dwight Loftis, Jim Merrill, Joe Neal, Denny Neilson, Harry Ott, Mike Pitts, Gary Simrill, B.R. Skelton, Murrell Smith, Roland Smith and Brian White) will meet Tuesday, February 22 at 10:00 a.m. in Blatt Room 521 to begin budget deliberations, which will continue throughou! t the week. Email your legislator and ask him or her to support natural resource agency funding.

Agri-Business Economic Development Act (H.3633, Rep. Dwight Loftis) SUPPORT

This bill would help boost South Carolina’s rural economy and alleviate the shortage of capital and credit available in the agribusiness sector, by giving the Department of Agriculture the authority to make, purchase and insure agri-business loans. An Agriculture Subcommittee (Rep. Marion Frye- Chair, Bill Chumley, Joe McEachern and Tommy Stringer) will meet to discuss this bill Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 2:30 p.m. in Blatt Room 410.

In the Senate

Prescribed Fire (S.501, Sen. Ronnie Cromer) SUPPORT

S.501 provides greater protection for landowners who choose to conduct prescribed burns on their property, and promotes the most efficient and cost effective forest management tool within South Carolina. The full Fish, Game and Forestry Committee (Sen. Ronnie Cromer- Chair, John Land, Yancey McGill, Dick Elliott, Brad Hutto, Chip Campsen, Jake Knotts, Mike Fair, Kent Williams, Paul Campbell, Larry Grooms, Danny Verdin, Vincent Sheheen, Creighton Coleman, Shane Martin, Mike Rose and Phillip Shoopman) gave this bill a favorable report last week and sent it to the full Senate.

Yucca Mountain (S.92, Sen. Ryberg) SUPPORT

This is a concurrent resolution to urge Congress to endorse Yucca Mountain’s sustainability as a permanent federal repository for high-level radioactive waste. The full Senate Agriculture Committee (Sen. Danny Verdin- Chair, Lee Bright, Kevin Bryant, Paul Campbell, Chip Campsen, Tom Davis, Dick Elliott, Larry Grooms, Brad Hutto, Jake Knotts, Phil Leventis, John Matthews, Yancey McGill, Mike Rose, Vincent Sheheen and Kent Williams) will meet Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 10:00 a.m. in Gressette Room 209 to discuss this bill.

Energy Resolution (S.96, Sen. Larry Grooms) MONITOR

The full Senate Agriculture Committee will discuss this resolution at the aforementioned Wednesday meeting. S.96 would ask South Carolina’s Congressional delegation to oppose federal cap and trade legislation and to support legislation that encourages the development of state renewable energy portfolio standards. (Cap & trade bills failed in last year’s Congress and are no longer being pushed as a means of reducing carbon pollution.)

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