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#SC2018: John Warren Draws Bead On Santee Cooper

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In his first policy foray as a candidate for elected office, Upstate South Carolina businessman John Warren took direct aim at the Palmetto State’s government-run energy industry – vowing to “fire the entire Santee Cooper board of directors for gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars” on his first day in office.

Along with crony capitalist utility SCANA, state-owned Santee Cooper is responsible for blowing approximately $10 billion on a botched next generation nuclear power plant in Fairfield County, S.C. (a.k.a. #NukeGate).  Approximately $2 billion of the cost for this project was effectively socialized courtesy of the now-notorious “Base Load Review Act,” a piece of special interest legislation which allowed utilities to raise rates on consumers to help pay for the project.

That legislation – advanced by liberal lawmakers and allowed to become law in 2007 by former governor Mark Sanford – is on the verge of being repealed, although many believe unwinding the measure could wind up doing more harm than good.

Warren said if elected governor this fall he would relieve all current Santee Cooper board members from duty “on grounds of gross negligence and dereliction of duty to South Carolina taxpayers.”

“This type of mismanagement would have led to an involuntary discharge in the United States Marine Corps and a pink slip at my business. As governor, I would fire the entire Santee Cooper board immediately,” Warren said. “The people of South Carolina should not pay one more nickel for a project that was grossly mismanaged by Santee Cooper and SCANA.”

“It is not the job of the ratepayers to bail out these companies for their incompetence,” Warren added. “It’s clear that the politicians lack the courage to lead on the V.C. Summer disaster. I’ll do what they could and would not.”

After firing the Santee Cooper board, Warren said he would select “an entirely new board of directors, including members with industry expertise.”

He also vowed to “hire a competitively bid, conflict-free firm to perform a forensic audit of Santee Cooper in an open and transparent process” and to “interview national investment banks that specialize in the energy sector for proposals regarding a sale of Santee Cooper, to include a valuation of the company.”

As for the abandoned project itself, Warren said he would “preserve the site for a future economic development project” (he didn’t specify what that project would be) and “sell the equipment on site.”

Those sound like sensible business decisions if you ask us …

Warren’s proposal is a shot across the bow of incumbent “Republican” governor Henry McMaster, who appoints the Santee Cooper board and who has been in secret negotiations to sell the utility at a substantially discounted price (i.e. a “fire sale“).

Clearly the aspiring governor believes the state can do better than what the current governor is proposing for this asset … and he’s probably right.

The only question is whether state lawmakers – who will ultimately decide Santee Cooper’s fate – are willing to part with the power company, which has played a starring role in many of their “economic development” schemes over the years.

For the record, this news site proposed selling Santee Cooper nearly a decade ago when it could have fetched billions of dollars for taxpayers.

Today, the state will be lucky to find a buyer for the beleaguered utility …

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