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Marlboro Electric Cooperative Leaving SC Association

Cooperative bolts statewide group …

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The Marlboro Electric Cooperative (MEC) – one of twenty community-run rural energy providers in South Carolina – is leaving the statewide trade association that has represented its interests (and the interests of a dozen-and-a-half other cooperatives) for years.

The MEC is pulling out of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC) – one of many entities engulfed in scandal in the aftermath of #NukeGate, the Palmetto State’s spectacularly failed government intervention in the energy industry.

According to our sources, the leaders of the cooperative are unhappy with Mike Couick, the political operative who runs the ECSC and who is a top ally to “Republican” S.C. governor Henry McMaster.

The group may not be the last to break ranks with ECSC, either.

“Some of the others are restless,” our source confided. “They’re frustrated with Mike.”

They should be.  But they also have their own conduct to answer for …

These cooperatives – or co-ops – were created during the Great Depression to provide power to rural regions of the state.  Twenty of them exist in South Carolina, providing energy to an estimated 1.5 million citizens in all forty-six counties.  Two additional co-ops provide wholesale power, while another sells utility supplies to the other.  Meanwhile the ECSC serves as the “advocate” for the entire network.

Earlier this month, reporter Avery Wilks of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper published an excellent long-form piece detailing the depth and breadth of institutional corruption that exists within many of these cooperatives.

Among other revelations, Wilks’ story noted that part-time MEC board members were receiving nearly $44,000 per year in compensation – nearly three times the national average of $15,000.  That’s the second-highest payday for electric cooperative board members in South Carolina, where the average compensation is around $29,500 per year (twice the national average).

Meanwhile, MEC charges customers an estimated $0.1342 per kilowatt hour of power – the ninth-highest rate in the state.

MEC provides power to residents in Marlboro and Dillon counties, two rural and impoverished counties in the Pee Dee region of the state which straddle the border of North Carolina.  The co-ops receive their power from beleaguered government-run utility Santee Cooper, which is currently eyeball-deep in the #NukeGate fiasco – and unlike to emerge intact from the multi-billion dollar debacle.

In addition to Wilks’ ongoing coverage, state representative Russell Ott of St. Matthews, S.C. is working on reform legislation that would mandate certain transparency standards for co-ops moving forward.  Meanwhile state representative Wendy Brawley of Richland County, S.C. is pushing the office of U.S. attorney Sherri Lydon to launch a federal investigation into “possible illegal activities” perpetrated by former board members of the Tri-County Electric Cooperative.

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