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Why Santee Cooper must be sold

A rogue state agency’s strategy to obstruct and delay

By Frank Knapp Jr.

Special to the Chronicle

More than 2 years ago Gov. Henry McMaster called Santee Cooper a “rogue agency”. 

The issues were accountability and transparency.

Santee Cooper once provided electricity to rural South Carolina when no investor-owned utility would.

It provides power to Lexington County members of Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative.

Now it has turned into an unnecessary agency arrogantly making bad business decisions.

It does everything it can for its own best interests, not the interests of its ratepayers or the taxpayers.

A court battle between Goose Creek and Santee Cooper over supplying electricity to the Mount Holly aluminum plant is the latest example.

For years Santee Cooper has risked 300 jobs and $500 million to the local economy because it won’t allow Mount Holly to buy less costly electricity on the open market.

Had Santee Cooper done so, the plant would have doubled its jobs and economic impact.

This has exposed Santee Cooper's high-priced electricity and failure to support economic development.

It also revealed Santee Cooper's strategy to undermine challenges to its bad decisions and future.

The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce is familiar with Santee Cooper’s “obstruct and delay” strategy.

In 2007 we opposed Santee Cooper’s proposed new $1 billion coal plant asunneeded and too costly.

After two years of the utility’s denial and delay, the project was canned but not before spending $250 million of ratepayer money for engineering and equipment.

Santee Cooper continued to store that equipment for over a decade, costing customers more than $104 million.

Santee Cooper contributed to the demise of SC Electric & Gas and added billons of debt to its ratepayers.

In 2015, Santee Cooper and SCE&G hid from regulators and public officials for 18 months a critical analysis warning that their nuclear construction project was doomed.

Hiding the report allowed the construction to go on and waste millions of investors' and ratepayers' dollars/

It aso forced SCE&G to be sold and added $4 billion more debt to Santee Cooper customers.

Last year Santee Cooper took deliberate actions to delay lawmaker from considering its sale to an investor-owned utility.

The SC Department of Administration told a joint Senate and House committee this year that Santee Cooper’s obstructionist tactics delayed them by 2 months and probably discouraged potential buyers for the utility.

This year, Santee Cooper again obstructed the legislative process by sending false and misleading emails to lawmakers and then refused to work with them.

Their efforts have been successful in delaying legislative debate but its sale is still on the table in the upcoming session.

Santee Cooper’s obstruct and delay strategies have failed to protect its customers from its bad decisions on the $1 billion failed coal plant, the $9 billion-plus failed nuclear plant and many others.

Now we wait to see if tits strategy will work in its battles to stop Goose Creek and   legislative efforts to sell it.

Why does the legislature tolerate a state agency that deliberately thwarts public policy, deceives and lies to public officials, insists that their customers pay billions in debt and deprives local communities of more jobs and economic growth?

For the good of the ratepayers and taxpayers, sell this rogue agency.

Frank Knapp is the President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

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