Monday, December 14, 2015 Blog

One grand tree, houses on sand redux, sun power, a climate agreement, offshore oil, 3 inspiring people.

by Dana Beach

Folks,

This week definitely ended with a bang. On Friday we heard that SCDOT Commission Chair Jim Rozier had directed the Department to cut down a grand live oak tree along River Road on Johns Island… on Monday. CCL’s Natalie Olson called Jim to discuss alternatives, but to no avail. As this Post and Courier editorial entitled “Save River Road Grand Tree” reports, Rozier “variously” justified the project by safety, the poor health of the tree, or a developer’s need for an entrance road. None of these claims is accurate, and late Friday DOT Secretary Christie Hall called off the slaughter, but only temporarily. This week we and city staff hope to explain why sparing the tree makes sense, not only because it is beautiful, (an attribute that does not figure into DOT logic), but because it is not the menace to motorists Rozier claims it is.

Speaking of menaces, the Post and Courier opines against an amendment to state legislation that would allow Kiawah developers to build a road through the dunes for the Captain Sams development. This is just one episode in the ongoing saga of Captain Sams Spit, which was given a reprieve last week by the S.C. Supreme Court when they reversed a lower court’s decision to allow construction of a gigantic bulkhead. The developers not only need the permit for the bulkhead, they need to modify — one might say, corrupt — the pending beachfront legislation. We are working to have the protective language of the bill restored on the floor of the Senate.

South Carolina’s private electric utilities and cooperatives are moving forward with groundbreaking solar programs, following passage of solar legislation last year. In this Island Packet editorial, the director of the Office of Regulatory staff, Dukes Scott, explains the details homeowners and businesses should know if they are interested in solar panels.

The outlier on solar energy is none other than South Carolina’s publicly owned utility, Santee Cooper. While Duke Energy, SCANA and the rural electric coops have embraced this clean, renewable, local source of fuel, Santee Cooper’s board approved a program this week so punitive and retrograde that no one in their service area is likely to invest in a solar facility. This article from The State, and a Post and Courier op-ed by Ann Timberlake with the Conservation Voters of S.C., explain what is wrong with the board decision.

The subject of solar energy calls to mind the climate conference in Paris, which has produced encouraging — miraculous, even — results. The conferees from almost 200 countries agreed to reduce fossil fuel use to prevent the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees centigrade. The agreement is, of course, far from perfect, but it is a huge step beyond the previous Kyoto agreement, which placed the burden of reducing greenhouse gases solely on developed countries.

This all makes the debate of whether to explore and drill for oil and gas off of South Carolina’s coast even more timely. Congressman Mark Sanford has spoken out against the proposal, initiated by the Obama Administration. Last week Sanford urged the Bureau of Energy Management to reevaluate the impacts of seismic testing on marine life. Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling (son of our former board member, the late Harriet Keyserling), editorializes in the Post and Courier against offshore exploration.

Two people close to the Conservation League were in the news this week, along with one of the planet’s greatest champions.

The first is our fearless Georgetown office director, Nancy Cave, who will retire this spring after 15 years of service. As the Coastal Observer reports, Nancy led the effort to block Santee Cooper’s proposed coal-fired power plant on the Pee Dee River; she organized rural communities to stop massive landfills for out of state waste in Williamsburg County; she led the charge to protect the population of bears in Lewis Ocean Bay; she held destructive, development inducing roads at bay, like I 73 and the 701 Connector; she helped obtain scenic road status on Plantersville road, and much, much more. It would be an understatement to say that we will miss Nancy.

And Bill Marscher, a former board member from Hilton Head, is celebrated in this letter to the editor in the Island Packet for his work, with our first land use program director, Sam Passmore, launching the Beaufort County Clean Water Task Force. The Task Force operated for many years, educating citizens and promoting measures to protect water quality and aquatic life in the southern part of the county.

Nancy and Bill are inspirations to all of us who care about the coastal environment and work to protect it.

And finally, finally, as reported in the New York Times, Doug Tompkins, one of the planet’s greatest defenders, died this week in a kayaking accident in Chile. Doug was a bold, audacious, uncompromising whirlwind of a conservationist who, with his wife, Kris, protected 2.2 million acres of land in Patagonia, and provided support, leadership and inspiration for conservationists worldwide. He will be missed, but his legacy will continue.

Dana


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