Keyserling gets Green Tie award

Conservationists honored former state Rep. Harriet Keyserling on Wednesday for what many say were pioneering efforts to protect South Carolina's environment.

Keyserling, a Beaufort Democrat, helped craft laws that led to state recycling programs, voted to establish a state energy office and fought against nuclear waste dumping during her tenure in the Legislature from 1977-93.

She was among six current and former state policymakers recognized by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina with the group's first Green Tie award.

Others receiving awards at Wednesday's luncheon were former state Sen. John Drummond, D-Greenwood; state Sens. John Courson, R-Richland, and Phil Leventis, D-Sumter; and state Reps. James Smith, D-Richland, and Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort.

Former Gov. Dick Riley, who spoke at the luncheon attended by about 300 people, said Keyserling was a "little known Yankee transplant" and mother of four who helped make positive changes in a state dominated by the good ol' boy system.

Riley said she inspired him on a key environmental issue during his term in office from 1978-1986.

"I relied on her advice and her counsel," Riley said, recounting how Keyserling helped push a law that eventually led to the shutdown of a national nuclear waste dump in Barnwell County.

Years after leaving the State House, she returned to Columbia to make sure the landfill closed to the nation, as scheduled, Riley said. During legislative debate in 2007 on whether to keep the dump open, Keyserling testified that Barnwell County had become "addicted" to nuclear waste and South Carolina needed to close the landfill to the nation, as planned.

Keyserling, 87, remains active in a variety of environmental and civic groups. She said the state should continue the effort to protect the landscape.

"It's time for South Carolina to have woken up to the fact that we have these resources to protect or they will go away," she told those attending the lunch at 701 Whaley in Columbia.

The Conservation Voters awards were made at a $35-a-plate dinner, the group's major fundraising effort. The Conservation Voters of South Carolina was formed six years ago to lobby the Legislature on environmental issues. It has had a number of successes in the Legislature, including defeat of the bill to keep the Barnwell landfill open to all states. The Conservation Voters represents 26 environmental groups.