Letter: Some lawmakers want to gamble on Santee Cooper with other people’s money

December 13, 2020

Palmetto Promise Team

S.C. Representative Bobby Cox cites a PPI study on Santee Cooper in this letter to the editor published in The Greenville News.

Here in the Upstate we haven’t been affected overtly by the state agency’s failed nuclear project known as Santee Cooper. Yet our Lowcountry neighbors are paying crushing power bills as a result and will continue to pay for years to come for something that was never built.

Earlier this year, NextEra Energy put an offer on the table to buy Santee Cooper. The offer would’ve addressed Santee Cooper’s debt and refunded customers all the money they’ve paid for the never-completed project. But our lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement, particularly the State Senate, thus putting politics and personal preference over their constituents.

The Legislature will have another opportunity to offload a debt-ridden, poorly managed, government-owned-and-operated utility to the private sector in the upcoming legislative session. Santee Cooper’s customers could finally see some relief on their power bills, and the entire state could have a huge liability taken off the state’s back.

Yet there are some who think we should wait and let Santee Cooper turn itself around so the state could maybe get a better deal. That’s easy for them to say when they’re not footing the bill.

And based on Santee Cooper’s track record, waiting for it to turn itself around is a huge gamble. It is still using coal for most of its generation and can’t afford to upgrade. According to a Palmetto Promise Institute report, it is $7 billion in debt and is projected to run a $525 million deficit over the next few years. And with COVID, it is losing $24 million this year alone.

What happens to Santee Cooper affects us all. The Upstate shouldn’t turn a blind eye to our neighbors simply because we’re not impacted. Don’t take that gamble; do what’s best and sell Santee Cooper.

S.C. Rep. Bobby Cox

Cox, a Republican, represents District 21, Greenville County, in the South Carolina House of Representatives.