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Santee Cooper: If You Build It, They Will Come?

Marion County project highlights why the state cannot own or manage a utility …

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A government entity investing in a speculative economic development deal is wrong under any circumstances, in our estimation.

Even if politicians pick a “winner” with the people’s money, there is always a loser – the taxpayers. Moreover, this process is patently unfair – providing a benefit to one entity which is not available to others (and which is, in fact, subsidized by others).

Whatever you think of such crony capitalist deals, though, one entity which should clearly not be involved in subsidizing them is Santee Cooper, a state-run utility that is currently billions of dollars in debt following a disastrously mismanaged nuclear power project.

#NukeGate – a spectacularly failed command economic boondoggle – has set the Palmetto State back billions of dollars, with Santee Cooper racking up an $8 billion mountain of debt in its aftermath.

The utility is also staring down a federal investigation over how its leaders misled the public regarding the status of the since-abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear generating station in Jenkinsville, S.C.

Has the utility learned its lesson? Hell no …

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Santee Cooper gave its former leader a multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-subsidized golden parachute in the aftermath of the debacle – and is paying legal bills for him and other executives implicated in the #NukeGate implosion.

It should not have shocked us, therefore, to discover Santee Cooper is continuing to invest in government-subsidized economic development schemes – including the construction of a “speculative building” at the Marion County Industrial Park in the rural Pee Dee region of the Palmetto State.

That’s right … “speculative.” As in, they are building it in the hopes a company will want to locate there.

“By constructing this building, we are positioning ourselves to provide a qualified prospect an attractive opportunity to locate here,” local economic developer Julie M. Norman said in a news release. “Working toward providing good jobs for our citizens will continue to be at the forefront of our efforts and those of our partners, and this is a prime example of that.”

(Click to view)

(Via: Marion County Economic Development Commission)

Actually, this is a prime example of everything that is wrong with “economic development” in South Carolina – a chronically failed, top-down approach that involves bribing companies into locating here as opposed to providing them with an educated workforce and business-friendly tax climate.

Propping up this latest scheme? A $1.5 million “loan” from Santee Cooper.

“Santee Cooper is confident that investing in an economic development project at a proven site will yield dividends to Marion County and the Pee Dee area of our state,” the utility’s vice president of corporate services, Pamela Williams, said in a statement.

Confident? Really?

We hate to point out the obvious here, but Santee Cooper was also “confident” in the two reactors it was building in Jenkinsville … only to see that project abandoned before they were completed at a $10 billion loss.

In fact, the utility was still borrowing up to its eyeballs and raising rates on its customers long after its leaders knew the project was doomed.

But hey … Santee Cooper’s leaders are “confident” this Marion County deal is going to pay off. So we should just trust them, right?

What could possibly go wrong?

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