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Alan Wilson Presses Santee Cooper On Legal Fees

Attorney general wants questionable payments stopped pending a review of their constitutionality …

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South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson is pressing failed government-run utility Santee Cooper over the money it is spending on legal fees.

Wilson is asking Santee Cooper board chairman Charlie Condon – one of his predecessors as attorney general – to assist him in reviewing the portion of Santee Cooper’s budget earmarked for “criminal defense expenses.”

According to the current attorney general, Condon should seek approval from his board to have these expenses reviewed by a panel of statewide officials including Wilson, governor Henry McMaster, state treasurer Curtis Loftis and comptroller Richard Eckstrom.

Wilson’s letter references a December 13 report in The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier in which it was revealed the embattled utility had run up a $9 million legal bill in 2018 – well above the $2.1 million it had budgeted for legal expenses.

“I … am deeply troubled about the appropriateness of these fees and expenses,” Wilson wrote in his letter to Condon.  “This office has issued several opinions concluding that the use of public funds for criminal defense expenses may violate the state constitution.  It is important that the rule of law be followed and that tax payers and rate payers be protected.”

In addition to seeking a review of the fees and expenses, Wilson urged Condon to ask his board to “withhold further payments to criminal defense attorneys until the advisory board has (had) an opportunity to review the legality of this matter.”

As regular readers of this news outlet are no doubt aware, Santee Cooper is in a world of trouble.  One of the central players of the still-unfolding #NukeGate debacle, its leaders were the ones who pulled the plug on the botched construction of a pair of next-generation nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer generating station in Fairfield County, S.C. last summer.

With state lawmakers and regulators enabling them, Santee Cooper and its partner – crony capitalist utility SCANA – planned to bring these reactors online 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.  Last July, Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the project – killing an estimated 5,600 jobs and throwing the state’s energy future into turmoil.

Just eight days before it bailed on the project, Santee Cooper announced massive rate increases on customers tied to “costs associated with nuclear construction and other system improvements.”  Also, after the project collapsed it gave its former leader a multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-subsidized golden parachute – even though documents released last summer showed its executives (and SCANA’s leaders) knew more than two years ago that the project was doomed.

Now the utility is spending millions of dollars on legal bills – including a criminal defense attorney who is currently representing its former CEO, Lonnie Carter.

That’s right … the guy who got a $16 million golden parachute following the biggest command economic debacle in state history is now having his legal bills paid by Santee Cooper ratepayers.

Unbelievable.

Hopefully Condon will oblige Wilson’s request and force any and all Santee Cooper executives currently under the criminal microscope to start picking up the tab for their own legal fees.

They have been bilking the citizens and ratepayers of this state for far too long …

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