2024 Mid-Session Update

Audubon advocates are speaking up for birds

We are about halfway through the second year of the 2023-24 South Carolina legislative session.  There have been ups and downs, but throughout it all, Audubon advocates have been showing up for birds.   If you are not receiving our email updates and opportunities for action, please sign up here. 

Starting with the good news: one of Audubon SC’s top priorities for this session, H.3951, the Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act, passed on February 6th – the same day as the SC Conservation Coalition’s annual lobby day!  This bill creates a fund specifically for the protection of working lands through voluntary conservation easements, ensuring that these key habitats for birds like Northern Bobwhite quail and Eastern Meadowlarks are protected in perpetuity and supporting local farmers’ livelihoods. More than 400 emails from Audubon advocates went to legislators to thank them for passing this bill. 

We are also supporting H.4996, which allows local governments to use Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) in their local land use planning.  TDRs empower property owners to sell development rights to others, promoting responsible growth and efficient land use by shifting development to denser, more suitable areas, while conserving environmentally sensitive areas.  This week, the bill had its first hearing in front of the Municipal and Public Affairs subcommittee of the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs committee.  While there was support for the concept, legislators felt they needed more time to consider the bill.  We hope it will receive another hearing soon. 

On the flip side, H. 5118, the South Carolina Ten-Year Energy Transformation Act, was filed with the goal of helping the state meet its energy needs.  Unfortunately, it represents a step in the wrong direction in the state’s quest for clean, reliable, affordable energy. In an effort to fast-track construction of a large natural gas plant, the bill circumvents utility oversight, eliminating important consumer and environmental protections established in the wake of the $9B VC Summer nuclear project failure. It also falls short in its efforts to support access to clean energy. 

Conservation advocates have shown up in large numbers to express their opposition to the bill - both in person, when the bill was heard in committee, and virtually, with over 650 messages from Audubon advocates reaching more than 100 members of the House.  The House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Public Utilities subcommittee had to schedule additional meetings to hear testimony because more than 70 people signed up to testify – mostly in opposition – on the bill.  Unfortunately, subsequent meetings were scheduled two days later, and many advocates could not return to Columbia to be heard.  Still, legislators received the message that the bill needed significant changes and have announced they will be taking more time to revise the bill.  This is good news; however, it remains to be seen if the changes they are making will be enough to ensure the bill provides a truly balanced approach to meeting our energy needs while protecting the people, places, and birds that make South Carolina so special to all of us. 

Stay tuned for more opportunities for action – again, you can sign up here if you are not already getting our updates.  

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