SC senate blocks plan to ease environmental, public safety rules

Sammy FretwellFebruary 26, 2014 

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com

— The state Senate has blocked a plan to eliminate scores of public health, safety and environmental rules after concerns surfaced about the sweeping impacts the measure could have on South Carolina.

Senators voted Tuesday to send the legislation back to a committee for further study, a vote that dims chances the proposal will pass. Sen Larry Martin, R-Pickens, persuaded the upper chamber not to approve the bill.

Among other things, the measure could have killed more than 100 Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations, including those that protect air quality and that oversee radioactive waste handling. Officials at DHEC and the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation had expressed concerns about the industry-supported bill.

The proposal isn’t the first to seek to drop regulations. Other business-backed measures are pending in the Legislature.

But in this case, DHEC director Catherine Templeton said the Senate made the right decision. While South Carolina is trying to eliminate unnecessary regulations, killing entire blocks of regulations, particularly with little review, is a bad idea, she said.

“It’s a broad brush and I understand it, but it lacks the surgical precision that we require to keep businesses afloat, give them the certainty they need to operate -- and keep people safe,’’ Templeton said after a budget hearing Wednesday.

At issue is an amendment to a bill on judicial ethics. The amendment was slipped in last week and the House approved the bill with the amendment 108-0. The amendment says many regulations should expire five years from the date they become effective – meaning the rules would disappear right away since a majority are more than five years old.

News of the amendment surfaced Monday afternoon. The state Chamber of Commerce supports the effort, but environmental groups, DHEC and the LLR said it would create confusion and jeopardize protections for the public.

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