> Chapter Home
 

Water Quality:
Pollution Amnesty Act

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: H.3925
Sponsor: Rep. Hardwick
Legislative Session: 2014

This bill would undo the “savings clause” that was included in last year’s Pollution Control Act compromise and agreed to by all parties. Passing this bill would equate to issuing an unconstitutional amnesty for past, unpermitted pollution, and in particular, coal ash, given the recent coal ash law suit in SC. It is currently awaiting subcommittee assignment by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee.

Status

5/13/14: This bill made it out of the House after a couple positive amendments, though it is still not a bill we can support. It is before Subcommittee of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee

Action Needed

Contact members of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee and tell them you oppose H.3925 because you do not believe corporations should have amnesty for polluting. It is also unconstitutional, but please consider the talking points below. 

If your personal Senator is not on the Medical Affairs Committee, we recommend you contact him or her as well. To find your personal Senator, use the "Find Your Legislator" application on the main page of the State House website, found here.

More information

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/bills/3925.htm

Background

OPPOSE H.3925 – Pollution Amnesty Act (PCA)

Passing H.3925 equates to issuing an unconstitutional amnesty for past, unpermitted pollution  

Current law:

1. Prevents lawsuits for pollution without a PCA permit after June 6, 2012.

2. Upholds a Savings Clause that preserves all pending suits, and also all rights, liabilities and 
          duties as they existed before the act was passed (as required by the Constitution).

This bill would undo the “savings clause” that was included in the PCA compromise and was agreed to by all parties in 2012, which thus would take away citizens’ and citizens groups’ right to suit to force polluters to clean up past, unpermitted pollution.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

In 2009, DHEC notified Santee Cooper that its 650,000 tons of toxic ash was violating the PCA because unpermitted pollution was impacting groundwater, with wells showing more than 300 times the federal government’s drinking water standard adjacent to the Waccamaw River(a source of public drinking water).

·         The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing 3 environmental organizations, filed a citizens suit over violation of the PCA savings clause language public became aware of the situation – which DHEC and Santee Cooper had never made public – and urged removal of the ash.

·         The Conway City Council unanimously called on Santee Cooper to change its practices, as did virtually all the speakers at a public hearing in Conway.  

After pushing to leave the ash in place, Santee Cooper then changed its mind and has agreed to remove the ash. 

Santee Cooper has publicly called the settlement a “win-win-win.”  This never would have happened without the citizens’ right to sue for old PCA illegal pollution.

In fact, Santee Cooper even announced it would clean up its coal ash pollution at two other sites, which were subject to PCA suits under existing law – without a suit being brought.

     
     

© copyright Sierra Club 1892-2014