May 22, 2019
Yesterday the S.C. General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution that sets in motion a process to determine if the heavily in-debt state utility, Santee Cooper, will be sold or managed by a private utility or kept as a reformed state agency.
The SC Department of Administration will accept offers to either purchase or manage Santee Cooper, evaluate the offers and make a recommendation to the legislature by January 15, 2020, as to the best purchase and management offers. A recommendation as to Santee Cooper’s own proposal to remain a state agency will also be made.
“We are very pleased that the legislature has established a fair process to determine what is in the best interest of the State, taxpayers and Santee Cooper customers,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC). The SCSBCC launched a public campaign three months ago to encourage the legislature to sell Santee Cooper if certain goals could be achieved. Six town halls were held across the state to engage the public on the issue.
“We believe that only the sale of Santee Cooper can protect its customers from planned rate hikes to pay off the utility’s $4 billion in nuclear construction debt,” said Knapp. “We hope that a new owner will also eliminate another $3.2 billion of debt Santee Cooper intends to collect from its customers.”
“We also want to see a plan to quickly retire the costly, carbon-polluting Santee Cooper coal plants,” said Knapp.
The purchase proposals will address these two issues, projected future rates, impact on current employees and other evaluation criteria.
“While we would have preferred the legislature to have made a final decision on Santee Cooper before the end of the year,” said Knapp, “the issue can still be resolved before the utility’s planned rate hikes go into effect.”