Feature Image: Post & Courier
In late May, lawmakers finally agreed to explore the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper after months of debate.
The agreement concluded in the adoption of a resolution which will allow the Department of Administration to oversee the process of collecting and reviewing bids for the utility. Once reviewed, the department will submit its recommendations for the best purchase offer and the best management agreement to lawmakers. Santee Cooper will also submit a reform proposal.
Many Santee Cooper customers are hoping for a sale rather than new management since this option is the only one that won’t burden the millions of coop and direct-serve customers with the debt or leave South Carolina with a bankrupt state agency.
South Carolina resident, David Hood, wrote to South Strand News thanking House and Senate members for their action to pursue a sale and help keep rates from rising once again. “My thanks to the House and Senate members who voted overwhelming to pursue a sale of troubled state-owned utility Santee Cooper to protect ratepayers from big rate hikes needed to pay off its huge debt,” Hood wrote.
In 2015, Santee Cooper raised their rates for the first time to start paying off their V.C. Summer debt, and with no way to pay back the debt without raising rates and the lack of approval needed, Santee Cooper will raise rates again and will continue to do so for the next several decades, if not sold.
Hood also noted the “common-sense criteria for binding bids such as protections for rank and file Santee Cooper workers and their pensions and preservation of the lake system,” two points which many are worried about.
However, the specific criteria required for a sale makes it highly unlikely that South Carolina will abandon Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion or the hardworking employees and retirees of Santee Cooper.
The Department of Administration’s recommendations aren’t due until March 2020 but as Hood wrote to South Strand News, “With interest on Santee Cooper’s debt accumulating at $1 million per day, it’s important for ratepayers that the sale process move forward as quickly as possible.”
Read the full letter here.