Lexington County Chronicle
April 4, 2019
by Jerry Bellune
Mid-Carolina Electric is going to get what SC Electric & Gas charges.
Santee Cooper executives told a Senate committee their residential electric rates will increase more than 7% by 2021.
This is on top of an extra 5% their customers are already paying for the taxpayer-owed utility’s $4 billion nuclear debt.
Mid-Carolina members in Lexington County get electricity from Santee Cooper.
“These same executives said that they didn’t know how much higher and for how longer rates would need to be increased to pay the utility’s debt,” said Frank Knapp, SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce CEO and a close observer of the utlity’s financial problems.
“Compare that to the significant rate relief SCE&G customers received from that utility’s nuclear debt, a 15% rate cut and elimination of $2.7 billion of the debt, when Dominion Energy was approved to buy SCE&G,” Knapp said.
He congratulated Senate President Pro Tem. Harvey Peeler for his proposal to authorize the governor to hand the sale of Santee Cooper to a private concern.
Peeler’s bill was unexpected as it will take negotiations out of lawmakers’ hands and turn them over to Gov. Henry McMaster.
Lawmakers are reluctant to give up their power and opposition is expected.
Senate opponents of selling Santee Cooper say they will try to block the bill.
During a Senate Finance Committee debate last week, several senators said they feared giving Santee Cooper to McMaster.
The House is expected to go along with it since Speaker Jay Lucas supports selling Santee Cooper.
This came a day after a special Senate committee peppered Santee Cooper executives with questions they couldn’t answer.
“They brought in Santee Cooper brass last week and it was an embarrassment,” Peeler said. “I thought maybe this week, they’ll be more prepared. Yesterday was 10 times worse. There’s no help for Santee Cooper.”
One observer said Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler of West Columbia became aggravated by Santee Cooper executives’ lack of preparation for questions.
“What detail do you have with you?” Setzler asked.
“Everything we ask, you say you don’t have it today.”