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#NukeGate: Santee Cooper Sues To Keep Charging Ratepayers

Government-run utility wants court to empower ongoing fleecing …

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Santee Cooper – South Carolina’s debt-addled, scandal-scarred government-run utility – is asking the highest court in the state to uphold its “statutory mandate and duty to set rates that cover its expenses.”

Gotta love government intervention in the energy industry, huh?

Basically it translates to this …

“If you don’t give us the money, we’ll take it.”

According to the spectacularly mismanaged state-owned bureaucracy, it has a duty to “set and collect rates sufficient to cover all of its expenses, including debt obligations.”  It is now asking the S.C. Supreme Court to affirm this “duty” in the face of several lawsuits seeking to block Santee Cooper from raising rates.

“A lengthy trial and appeal process could jeopardize the valuable state asset that is Santee Cooper,” the utility’s vice president and lead attorney J. Michael Baxley stated. “We need immediate Supreme Court action on this fundamental issue. Credit rating agencies have already reacted to the pending circuit court litigation, citing the uncertainty it creates.”

Hold up … valuable asset? 

Santee Cooper is drowning in debt, people … and on the verge of a spectacular implosion.  It is also at the center of a massive federal investigation over the lies it told while running up that massive debt.

Now the entity is supposed to receive carte blanche from the court to continue jacking energy rates on consumers?  For a project that is never going to produce so much as a watt of energy?

Let’s not forget: This is the same bureaucracy which tried to raise rates on customers for its botched nuclear project (a.k.a. #NukeGate) just one week before pulling the plug on the multi-billion dollar failure.  It’s also the same entity which gave its disgraced former CEO a $16 million golden parachute.

Along with crony capitalist utility SCANA, Santee Cooper announced in 2007 its intention to build a pair of next generation nuclear reactors near Jenkinsville, S.C.  The reactors were supposed to have been operational in 2016 and 2017, respectively, at a cost of $9.8 billion.

That clearly didn’t happen …

The money was spent, the reactors simply weren’t completed … and the utilities couldn’t afford the $10-16 billion price tag necessary to finish them.  Eleven months ago, Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the project – killing an estimated 5,600 jobs and throwing the Palmetto State’s energy and economic future into chaos.

“Santee Cooper has been habitually dishonest with the public regarding the status of this project,” we wrote earlier this month in our most recent deep dive on the troubled utility.

Specifically, we uncovered construction schedules and cost estimates included in Santee Cooper bond documents that directly conflict with the findings of a 2016 report on the status of the nuclear expansion project.

Once again, this news site proposed selling Santee Cooper a decade ago – back when such a move would have netted billions of dollars for the state.

Lawmakers refused to listen.  Why not?  They wanted to retain control over this asset so that they could cut favorable “economic development” deals to corporations looking to locate in South Carolina – even if such deals meant raising rates even further on consumers and small businesses.

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