S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.1111.enviro.htm

Environmental movement getting new head of steam
By Andy Brack, Publisher

NOV. 11, 2007 - - South Carolina's environmental movement has picked up an unexpected ally: Santee Cooper, the very public utility it is battling with over a proposed coal-burning power plant.

The utility's aggressive push to build the billion-dollar plant in the Kingsburg area of Florence County has galvanized fishermen, rural residents, conservationists and long-time liberal environmentalists into a coalition with, ahem, new energy.

Florence resident Peggy Brown, natural resources director for the state League of Women Voters, said the planned power plant has brought together different groups and people.

"It has united them to make them stronger," she noted.

Dana Beach, head of the SC Coastal Conservation League, said the unity is driven by the plant and has allowed conservation organizations to broaden their reach.

"It has been the crucible for education and activism that we've needed around the state," he said. After listing several groups opposing the plant, he added, "We're all working very closely together to not only oppose the plant, but to develop an agenda to solve the problem.

"The coal plant has become a focal point for environmental enthusiasm because it is very difficult to conceptualize some of the more complex policies we need to be doing."

The movement got its first shot in the arm earlier this year after industry forces lobbied to get state legislators to abandon a long commitment to close a low-level nuclear waste dump in Barnwell County by next year to all but three states.

Environmentalists squawked. When lawmakers visited the facility and looked more into the situation, they shelved a proposal to extend the facility's use. After a summer scare about possible radioactivity in water around the dump, the facility's owner backed down for good on trying to keep it open.

Coal being dumped into a pile at a power plant.

Success from the Barnwell fight emboldened conservationists to work more closely together on the proposed Kingsburg plant, which Santee Cooper claims is needed to keep up with modern energy needs.

Opponents counter the plant's emissions will hurt health in the area. They also say use of other power sources and efforts to improve energy efficiencies will offset the need for an expensive new plant. (Interestingly in a move to highlight its greenness - and perhaps quell the outcry from environmentalists -- Santee Cooper recently adopted a long-term goal of having 40 percent of its energy come from sources that don't emit greenhouse gases. Click here to go to Santee Cooper's "Green Power" Web site.)

Now both sides are completely engaged. Coal advocates have been running statewide ads on so-called clean coal. Conservationists have had press conferences and coordinated efforts to get opponents to attend public permit hearings.

"When we win -- and we will win -- it will give a higher degree of credibility to what we do," Beach said.

In the near future, the green movement in the state is expected to use its new muscle to focus on several issues:


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    Energy efficiency. A move likely will take shape to develop a more comprehensive state energy policy that pushes large-scale efficiency measures, such as appliance standards (allowing stores to sell only energy-efficient appliances), more energy tax credits, and research and development.

  • Climate change. Environmentalists will push for the state to adopt various strategies to lower impacts on the environment. An example is a bill that passed earlier this year that requires new multi-million-dollar state buildings to meet green building standards.

  • Mercury. In light of recent news reports on the harmful effects of mercury in state waters, particularly in rivers in the Pee Dee, lawmakers are sure to hear renewed calls for measures on everything from mercury thermometer bans to reduced emissions of mercury from industrial plants.

  • DHEC restructuring. Environmentalists are gathering steam for an effort to split the state Department of Health and Environmental Control because they say the agency isn't proactive enough to be effective on protecting people's health and their communities.

The battle over the Kingsburg power plant likely will be bitter and long. The longer it is, the better chance more South Carolinians will wonder whether there are better and cleaner ways of powering our economy than a new plant that adds pollution to the air and water.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

Turn of century expo garners attention for SC

The beautiful Exposition building built on what is now Hampton Park in Charleston is no longer standing.

Held in Charleston from December 1, 1901 to June 20, 1902, the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition followed world’s fairs in other Southern cities such as Atlanta (1881, 1895), New Orleans (1884-1886), and Nashville (1897). While many of the city’s traditional merchants and bankers were uninterested, the idea gained support from the city’s progressive young businessmen.

Under the leadership of Frederick C. Wagener, Charleston’s Exposition Company raised money through private and corporate subscriptions to stock, a municipal bond issue, state government, and donations of convict labor. The company acquired the lands of the old Washington Race Course and the adjacent Lowndes farm, lying north of the city along the Ashley River. The company hired Bradford Lee Gilbert, a New York-based architect and the supervising architect of Atlanta’s Cotton States Exposition (1895), to oversee the design and construction of the landscape and buildings.


SC Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

The goal of the Exposition was to stimulate trade through the city’s harbor, where traffic had steadily decreased since the Civil War. In the wake of the Spanish-American War, the Exposition’s proponents sought to position Charleston as the principal port of exchange between the United States and the Caribbean and Latin America. However, the federal government did not give the Exposition its formal approval until just before the start, and no foreign governments sent official exhibits. Poor weather, a late installation of many exhibits, and a chronic shortage of funds, all contributed to the poor financial results of the Exposition.

After the end of the Exposition, the city of Charleston acquired the eastern portion of the grounds containing the formal court and main buildings for use as Hampton Park. In the 1910s, the state acquired the western portion of the grounds along the Ashley River for the new campus of the Citadel.

-- Entry by Bruce G. Harvey, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Investment quest

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

11/4: Property tax relief law was overkill for rich

To Statehouse Report:

Great report. One reason SC ranks near the bottom in all economic factors -and not on your list is our new property tax relief-overkill law (Act 388). This law shifts a $954 million tax burden (23 percent of the state's entire property tax burden) -- the largest in SC history -- from those most able to pay their own taxes to those most in need of tax relief.

$582 million of which will be paid for by a regressive 20 percent increase in sales tax. The balance $372 million will be paid for by all poor property owners, thanks to most of the 700,000 duped into voted yes to amendment #4. We now have a property tax system that is a "cash cow" for wealthy property owners and a constitution that allows it to be so, regardless of the fact that it denies "equal treatment" to 70 percent of all taxpayers.

The 15 percent value Cap generates over the next five year reassessment cycle a $372 million tax break for the wealthiest property owners in the state. This will be paid for by less affluent home owners, personal property owners, and owners of small businesses.They will subsidize owners of the most valuable properties, including their mansions, beach and waterfront properties, mountain view homes, their second homes, rentals and all other commercial properties. Small wonder SC ranks 49th in per capita income and the highest in crime. Such laws guarantee it will remain unchanged.

-- Bob Henderson, North Charleston, SC

Recent feedback

10/31: Brack makes scary assumptions, Michael Greer, Summerville, SC
10/30: Not removed on all grocery taxes, Bob Henderson, North Charleston, SC
10/28: More money won't help schools, David Whetsell, Lexington, SC
10/26: Venture program will have positive impact, Chad Walldorf, Mount Pleasant, SC
Leadership needed to strengthen state, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
Solar power makes sense, Barbara Measter, Seabrook Island, SC
Not for tax breaks, Bob Logan, Little River, SC
State needs affordable medical help, birth control, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
Some good points in sex Ed column, Anne Badgley, Charleston, SC
Why insurance companies want to cancel policies, Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC
Australia is tip of iceberg, John P. Ford, Sumter, SC
8/13: Americans have grown apathetic, David Whetsell, Lexington, SC


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Unveiling Sanford's list
By Bill Davis, editor
Exclusive from the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

NOV. 9, 2007 -- Gov. Mark Sanford has big plans for the coming legislative session beginning in January. But state legislators, some of whom got a private sneak peek at an informal sheet of bullet points of the governor's 2008 agenda, appear to view it as nothing more than a fanciful wish list.

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.