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#NukeGate: Hugh Leatherman’s Panel Is A Joke




As the fallout from #NukeGate continues cascading across the South Carolina political landscape, it’s been curious to see how the Palmetto State’s so-called “leaders” are responding.

To recap: Last week, government-owned energy provider Santee Cooper stunned the state by bailing on the V.C. Summer nuclear power project – which would have resulted in the completion of a pair of new nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C.

Santee Cooper’s decision killed 5,000 jobs, squandered billions of dollars in investment (including $2 billion coughed up by Palmetto State ratepayers) and has thrown the state’s energy future into chaos.

It has also prompted furious debate over the proper role of government in the power generation industry – which we have long maintained should be “none whatsoever.”

Fiscal conservatives like S.C. Senator Tom Davis and state representative Joshua Putnam agree with us.  They want to get government out of the utility ownership/ management business.  They also want to block utilities (public or private) from forcing ratepayers to subsidize their speculative investments.

We agree with them on both counts …

Unfortunately, such common sense is in short supply within the liberal “Republican-controlled” S.C. General Assembly.  And it’s been in short supply for years.

A decade ago, state lawmakers authorized Santee Cooper’s private sector partner on the V.C. Summer project – SCANA – to raise rates on consumers as a means of subsidizing its nuclear investment.  This was done via Act 16 of 2007, the so-called “Base Load Review Act.”

To be clear: SCANA had planned to move forward with the construction of these two reactors before it was sandbagged by Santee Cooper.  In fact just one week prior to pulling the plug on this project, Santee Cooper’s board members announced rate increases for customers based in large part on the utility’s “nuclear construction” needs.

So while we don’t blame SCANA for this debacle, the company’s investment risk never should have been shifted onto the backs of ratepayers. 

It was, though … and now many of the politicians responsible for this shift want ratepayers to believe they should be part of the “solution.”

(Click to view)

(Via: Travis Bell Photography)

This week, powerful S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman (above) announced the creation of a legislative committee to “review all aspects of the (V.C. Summer) project” and “develop a new energy policy for South Carolina.”


Not only does Leatherman’s panel lack a single credible free market advocate, it is loaded with many of the lawmakers who sponsored the 2007 bill that created this mess in the first place.

Among them?  Liberal “Republicans” Thomas AlexanderGreg Gregory and powerful judiciary chairman Luke Rankin.  Senate Democratic leader Nikki Setzler – another sponsor of the 2007 bill – is a co-chairman of the panel.

Seriously … is this a joke? 

Sadly, no … Leatherman’s committee is for real.  And it is banking on people’s ignorance (or at least their short memories).

Desperate for political cover, the same self-serving, special interest-fed politicians whose spectacular failure to protect citizens created this debacle in the first place now wish to play the role of saviors.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times … don’t fall for it.

These are the same “leaders” whose ever-escalating taxingborrowing and spending addiction continues to produce demonstrably deplorable outcomes for our state – economicallyfiscallyeducationally and with regards to infrastructurepublic safety and other core functions of government.

Now the presume to be trusted with managing our state’s energy policy as well?  After their lack of foresight has cost ratepayers in excess of $2 billion with nothing to show for it?

Again … don’t fall for it.

This is a textbook case of foxes guarding the henhouse.



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Banner via Travis Bell Photography