A Review of Environmental Policy for 2009-2010

As we review the best and worst environmental legislation of 2009, it’s also time to begin to consider what ideas are likely to resurface during the 2010 session.

Following a national trend, South Carolina’s legislature has become increasingly enamored with green initiatives that will have little to no impact on global warming and instead are increasing state spending and driving up costs for homeowners and consumers. But rather than promoting property rights and tort reform – the most effective (and constitutional) methods of protecting natural resources – the General Assembly has resorted to regulatory controls and tax breaks to push various environmental causes.

 

Best Ideas for 2010

 

1) Empower Localities. Whenever possible the General Assembly should defer to localities regarding environmental concerns. Environmental policy is best defined by the people most closely associated with the actual environment where these people live. Bills such as S 324 – a landfill moratorium – and S 452 – regulations on surface water – operate under the assumption that Columbia can better manage resources than local communities. These types of decisions should be made by municipalities and counties – not state politicians and bureaucrats.

 

2) Privatize the Energy Market. The South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) is the largest energy supplier in the state, providing 40 percent of the state’s electricity. But government does not belong in the business of selling energy. Through it’s ownership of Santee Cooper, the state is distorting the energy market. While South Carolina is a co-op heavy state – there are 20 electricity co-ops that each serve a specific portion of the state – 15 of the co-ops purchase their energy directly from Santee Cooper, masking the extent of the state’s monopolistic control over energy production. Removing the government from the energy market would increase competition and lower prices.

 

3) Energy Deregulation. Although lifting restrictions on drilling (cf. S 44) remains a good idea, petroleum experts do not believe there are significant oil and gas reserves off the South Carolina coast. Thus the most important form of energy deregulation the state could undertake would be to loosen regulations on providers. As it stands, the Public Service Commission and Office of Regulatory Staff place a large burden on power companies. The legislation authorizing these regulatory bodies was passed in 1969 to help reach rural areas. Now that such access has been provided, the General Assembly should pull back from the energy market.

 

Worst Ideas for 2010

 

1) Mandating a Renewable Energy Portfolio. It’s one thing to encourage consumers to save money by becoming more energy efficient; it’s another to legislate what type of energy may be used. Of particular concern here is H 3628, which would require electric utilities to expand the use of renewable energy resources. A similar requirement in neighboring North Carolina is going to cost thousands of jobs and raise consumer utility bills by more than $310 million a year.

 

2) Cap and Trade. Congress is currently considering a sweeping cap and trade tax system that would cap CO2 emissions at a politically acceptable level and then create a global marketplace to buy and sell allotted emissions levels. A prior Policy Council report shows South Carolina stands to lose 18,965 jobs by 2020 if cap-and-trade is enacted. More to the point, the legislation will have little, if any, impact on global climate. According to a 2008 report by the Science and Public Policy Institute, “No emissions reductions by South Carolina will have any detectable regional or global effect whatsoever on climate change.”

 

1) More Subsidies for Hydrogen. The Policy Council has written extensively on the state’s failed hydrogen policy. But if the public is starting to question the benefits of this green boondoggle, federal and state lawmakers continue to spend millions on hydrogen technology that experts agree is “one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases.”

 

To read more about environmental legislation, click here.

 

Nothing in the foregoing should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder passage of any legislation. Copyright 2009. South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation, 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201.

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