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McMaster signs bill shielding companies from nuisance lawsuits

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S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law on Tuesday a bill preventing companies from being found a public or private nuisance if they are following all pertinent laws, licensing regulations and local ordinances.

“One thing we always want to convey to people looking to invest in our state is that they know what they're getting when they come to South Carolina; they're not going to be vexed with unnecessary complaints and lawsuits,” McMaster said in a statement after signing H.3653. “What we’re doing is making the pre-existing common law even more clear to say that as long as a business is following all the rules and has all the permits and documentation that it needs to have, someone who moves near that plant or facility can’t start complaining that it is there doing what it is licensed to do.”

Rep. Mike Forrester, R-Spartanburg, was the lead sponsor of the bill to provide protections sought by manufacturers as urban development sprawls closer to industrial sites.

Members of the business community, including the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and representatives of Sonoco and Volvo, lauded its passage.

“As South Carolina's population continues to grow and neighborhoods continue to expand closer and closer to existing manufacturing facilities’ footprints, it is important to provide certainty to those manufacturers so that they can continue to invest, operate and provide jobs,” said Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance.

“South Carolina manufacturers strive to be good neighbors, and this legislation strikes a balance between the needs of industry and the rights of citizens. This law will encourage future South Carolina manufacturing capital investments and jobs.”

Some say protecting companies from nuisance lawsuits gives them license to operate without regard to community concerns.

“The biggest concern we had with this bill is that it essentially gave industries permanent and complete immunity from any potential litigation-related nuisance and thereby kind of gave them free license to just ignore the conversations and feedback from nearby neighbors,” John Tynan, executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina, told The Greenville News. “Obviously we’re not talking about every industry; we’re talking about the small percentage that might be bad actors.”

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