S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.1126.enviroissues.htm

Environmental, energy measures may come to forefront
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

NOV. 26, 2006 - - With popular realization that $3 per gallon gas and global warming aren't outside the realm of reality, state lawmakers are poised to take a look at various environmental and energy measures in the coming two-year legislative session.

Bubbling just below the surface is an energy conservation and incentive package that Gov. Mark Sanford's office reportedly is working to present to lawmakers in January.

The plan, which may be unveiled during the governor's State of the State address, was apparently intentionally left out of the recent gubernatorial race because the governor didn't want to politicize state efforts to improve policy on how South Carolina produces and consumes energy.

More incentives for things like solar energy could help South Carolina make energy progress.

The plan, which the conservation community is eager to see, is thought to include a mixture of tax incentives to encourage energy conservation and petroleum alternatives, money for improved energy research, efforts to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions and more state dollars to boost energy education for consumers.

This new statewide energy plan also may include a recommendation from the governor's office for a special commission to take on energy challenges of the 21st century. With South Carolina's natural advantages in hydrogen and fuel cell research - and with the growing interest in biodiesel fuel - it's time for the state to step up to the energy plate of the next generation.

Other environmental issues on the table in 2007:

Regulatory takings. Out-of-state funders are keen to work to control regulatory takings, but conservationists are developing a coalition to work to maintain the rights of local governments and communities to decide how their areas will develop through zoning and local ordinances.

Opponents to the current system include big developers who say local zoning rules diminish the value of a person's property because the rules are "regulatory takings" that thwart the rights of property owners to do anything they want to do with their land.


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On the surface, people might think it sounds good to get rid of zoning. The average person might say, "I don't want the government telling me what I can do to my property." But if local governments aren't able to channel and steer growth throughout a community, the value of a person's property might actually end up being worth less than now. For example, if your neighbor wanted to put up a 50-story high-rise or an adult book store, he might just be able to do so if the big developers and out-of-state, deep-pocketed interests get their way.

Even considering the possibility of eliminating zoning calls for selfish, individual interests to be placed ahead of the community and the common good.

Water use. State lawmakers also may consider legislation that would regulate how much surface water can be drawn from lakes and rivers. If too much is siphoned off, there may not be enough for wildlife, fisheries, sportsmen and future needs. For a few years, the state has been working to develop a cooperative agreement with neighboring states to deal with water usage in a fair way.

Isolated wetlands. Word on the street is the environmental community may hold off on insisting on new protection for isolated wetlands, a key unresolved issue for the last few years. Why the change? Because a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling confused the whole issue even more and state regulators now think they might have enough authority to protect these unique wetlands from development.

Conservation Bank. Over the last three years, the $10 million of annual funding to the state Conservation Bank has protected more than 74,000 acres of land statewide. But because some lawmakers see it as a fund from which they can steal for pet projects, conservation groups again will have to fight to maintain the funding stream. A better way: Create a mechanism to keep the money sacrosanct and off the table from legislators with sticky fingers.

Send your comments to Andy Brack at brack@statehousereport.com. His book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary

lighter side
11/24: Illegal immigrants?

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

11/19: Dems shouldn't forget South

To the editor:

Enjoyed your column [Commentary, 11/19]. It contains the argument I've tried to make. Yes, Democrats could win the presidency without Southern electoral votes, but should they try. Isn't it in the interests of the country, not to mention the Democratic Party, to aspire to be a truly national party?

-- Ferrel Guillory, Chapel Hill, N.C.

11/19: Confusing issues of the ballot

To the editor:

Too many confusing issues on the ballot this time (7 in Horry).... It was a scam and should be appealed. No explanation of the negatives of a 15 percent property tax cap was provided with the handouts. They distributed inside our precinct buildings to voters. They were made available to pollworkers and not kept at least 200 feet away as per the law.

-- Bob Logan, Little River, S.C.

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