A coalition of environmentalists and conservative politicians has scored legislative victories that many say will protect communities from coal ash dumping and unwanted petroleum pipelines.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill Wednesday that is intended to prevent companies from depositing coal ash into construction dumps, which are not regulated as tightly as lined municipal solid waste waste dumps.
Pickens County residents have been upset since learning late last year that a North Carolina corporation wanted to use a proposed construction dump near Liberty for coal ash disposal. That prompted Republican lawmakers in Pickens County to introduce legislation limiting utility coal ash from being deposited in construction and demolition landfills, which take waste such as concrete, wood and bricks.
Coal ash is the toxic byproduct of producing power by burning coal. It often contains arsenic, mercury and other poisonous materials.
“I am pleased to sign this legislation into law today,” Haley said this week. “It is absolutely essential that we protect our environment from out-of-state waste, and I’m proud to help bring these much needed protections into law.’’
MRR Southern officials, who wanted to dispose of ash in Liberty, were not available Thursday, but an attorney for the company told The Greenville News recently that the legislation was “discriminatory.’’ The Southern Environmental Law Center, the Sierra Club and Upstate Forever backed the legislation.
Meanwhile, the state Senate approved legislation Thursday that would prevent the Kinder Morgan company from condemning land in South Carolina for a proposed petroleum pipeline. The bill now moves to the House, where it has support from Aiken-area lawmakers.
Kinder Morgan’s pipeline would run from a terminal near Belton in Anderson County to the Jackson area south of Aiken. It would then cross the Savannah River and wind through Georgia to Jacksonville, Fla. An existing terminal near Belton that is affiliated with Kinder Morgan has in the past two years leaked petroleum, increasing concerns about the environmental impact of a pipeline through western South Carolina.
The bill would prohibit private petroleum companies not regulated by the state from condemning land.
“This goes a long way toward providing landowners with the tools they need to stand up for their property,’’ Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus said, adding that property owners along the proposed pipeline route “are rightfully scared.’’
Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz said her company is disappointed in the legislation.
Kinder Morgan “believes the bill would discourage investment in the safest method of transporting a vital domestic resource,’’ she said in a statement. “Our goal in every project is to reach mutually beneficial agreements with landowners and communities. That is by far the most common outcome in our projects.’’
In both instances, environmental groups received support from conservative Republican lawmakers with whom they sometimes clash over regulations that affect businesses. In both cases, however, scores of local property owners expressed concerns. Among those supporting the coal ash legislation were Rep. Davey Hiott and Sen. Larry Martin, both Pickens County Republicans. Rep. Bill Hixon is among the conservative Republicans from the Aiken area backing the pipeline legislation.