A day after one of her political rivals challenged her to return contributions from donors with ties to energy utilities, South Carolina GOP gubernatorial hopefuly Catherine Templeton unveiled her plan to address #NukeGate – the Palmetto State’s spectacularly failed command economic intervention in the energy industry.
Templeton’s policies – unveiled at a press conference in West Columbia, S.C. – include freezing energy rates, repealing a special interest law that allowed those rates to increase, selling a government-owned utility for “maximum value,” deregulating the industry to allow new providers into the marketplace, expanding options for consumers and banning publicly subsidized energy concerns from contributing to the political campaigns of elected officials.
“There’s an old rule in Columbia: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” Templeton said. “If we elect you to protect our money and do the people’s business, you can’t take any money for yourself and you must be fair and impartial. I will forbid publicly-subsidized utility companies from trying to buy our elected officials with campaign contributions.”
Templeton also said she will create a cabinet-level secretary of energy to safeguard the interests of ratepayers moving forward.
“When I am governor, we will have an energy secretary who will make South Carolina ratepayers the top priority,” Templeton said.
In proposing the creation of one agency, Templeton is advocating for the elimination of another – the state’s notoriously conflicted Public Service Commission (SCPSC).
“The Public Service Commission is an open invitation to abuse,” Templeton said. “It’s a case of unelected bureaucrats who don’t have to answer for their actions doing what’s best for the special interests, not what’s best for you and me. As governor, I’ll make sure we have a voice in who is protecting us.”
The SCPSC – whose members are elected by state lawmakers – played a starring role in the multi-billion dollar #NukeGate debacle, which has emerged as one of the biggest campaign issues of the 2018 election cycle.
What is #NukeGate?
To recap: With S.C. lawmakers cheering them on, crony capitalist utility SCANA and state-owned utility Santee Cooper spent the past decade building a pair of next-generation nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. at a cost of $9.8 billion. The money for these reactors was spent, but they were never finished. In fact they’re not even half-finished – with the cost to complete them reportedly ranging between $9-16 billion.
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South Carolina ratepayers have shelled out $2 billion already on this botched project thanks to the now-notorious Base Load Review Act (BLRA) – a case study in government mismanagement. This legislation – advanced by liberal lawmakers and allowed to become law in 2007 by former governor Mark Sanford – is on the verge of being repealed, even though many believe unwinding it could do more harm than good.
As noted, Templeton supports repealing the law …
“Special interest, government subsidized monopolies are taking from us right now,” she said. “Every month, SCANA customers go in the hole more than $27 for two government subsidized holes in the ground that benefit fat cat executives. The energy powering the light switch at your house, your heat, your air, your washing machine – all cost the same as they did ten years ago. But now you pay more every month for them because that money is going directly from your pocket into those two holes in the ground that big utilities created.”
Templeton pointed the finger of blame at incumbent “Republican” S.C. governor Henry McMaster, who has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from utilities since taking office in January 2017.
“Henry McMaster allowed this as attorney general and now, as governor for over a year, continues to allow it,” Templeton said. “Why hasn’t he stopped this? Henry took well over $100,000 in campaign contributions in this race alone, not to mention the money he has taken from SCANA executives and co-ops during his 30 years in politics, while SCANA took $2 billion from us. It’s time for a business reformer with a proven record, a conservative outsider who can’t be bought and owes no favors, to clean house in Columbia.”
Templeton has also taken several thousand dollars from individuals with ties to the energy industry – as noted earlier this week by Upstate businessman John Warren, who is also seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Warren claimed he is the “only candidate” who can be trusted to protect ratepayers.
“Special interests control my opponents, I am ready to take action for taxpayers on day one,” Warren said. “Average taxpayers are being forced to pay for the mistakes of politicians and political elites. It’s time for all of the candidates for governor to serve the people, not themselves.”
Templeton says the contributions in question are from longtime friends, not the utilities they are connected to.
“I want to know if a utility gave to me and I don’t know it so I can give the money back,” she told us.
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