Requiring the PURC Approve DHEC Emission Plans

H.3693 would require the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to obtain the approval of the Public Utilities Review Committee (PURC) before submitting any plan to regulate South Carolina carbon dioxide emissions, in accordance with federal law, to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If DHEC develops a state plan to regulate emissions it will be required to submit this plan along with a report detailing the plan’s potential impacts on, costs of electricity, employment, stranded investments, electric reliability etc., to the PURC. Once the PURC receives the plan and accompanying report PURC members will vote on whether to approve the plan. No DHEC emissions plan may be submitted to the EPA without receiving an affirmative vote from the majority of the PURC.

Any state emissions plan which could have a significant effect on the state economy is worthy of debate and should have approval of more than one state agency before being implemented. However, the PURC is the wrong place to debate such a plan, and the wrong entity to approve it. The PURC would not be able to provide the appropriate level of transparency and accountability that this debate requires. The PURC’s 10 members are effectively chosen by only two legislators, the House Speaker, and the Senate Judiciary Chairman. In turn, the PURC screens and approves any candidates for Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) or membership on the Public Service Commission (PSC), South Carolina’s other two important energy regulating agencies. This system thwarts any attempt at accountability in energy regulation. The results, as seen in the ever rising consumer costs in the state’s energy market, give citizens little reason to cheer PURC control.

Any policy as impactful as a state emissions plan should be debated in the open before the full legislature, each member of which is accountable to their constituents. The PURC, in addition to having a poor regulatory track record, would not be able to provide the appropriate level of transparency and accountability that this debate requires.

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