Santee Cooper buyers face tougher decisions. Lawmakers want many guarantees on a sale.

Lexington County Chronicle
May 9, 2019

By Jerry Bellune

Lawmakers hope Santee Cooper’s value – not it’s $8 billion debt – will attract a generous buyer.

Whether the state sells or seeks other ways to dispose of the debt may depend on tough decisions by a buyer willing to liquidate the debt and replace old, polluting coal plants without:

• Skyrocketing rates.

• Hurting taxpayers or Santee Cooper’s customers, employees and retirees.

• Impeding aid in luring industry with low rates.

Last week’s town hall meeting at the Lexington Library attracted Mid-Carolina Electric Coop, Central Electric Power Cooperative and Santee Cooper executives and the public.

The town hall, sponsored by the SC Small Business Chamber and the Chronicle, discussed the most likely options for lawmakers who represent state taxpayers.

Small Business Chamber CEO Frank Knapp said lawmakers may tell the state Department of Administration to invite proposals on Santee Cooper’s future, hire experts to analyze them and present the best proposal.

Santee Cooper will have to propose how it would reform itself if it is not sold, said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, who represents Lexington County.Central Electric Cooperative which buys power for Mid-Carolina would negotiate with all bidders.

“I do not expect this will be completed before the end of 2019,” he said.

A committee is evaluating 15 bids it already has from 10 investment firms and power companies.

Gov. Henry McMaster wants to sell Santee Cooper due to debt incurred with SC Electric & Gas in a failed $9 billion nuclear plant.

A House bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Russell Ott who represents southern Lexington County, would require a tall order for any buyer who must:

• Take on Santee Cooper’s $8 billion debt.
• Cut electric rates.
• Protect the utility’s employees and retirees.
• Work with the state on economic development.
• Maintain lakes Moultrie and Marion and all other recreation assets.

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