Sadly, this article is not about the initiation of a competitive bidding process to offload South Carolina’s spectacularly failed, debt-addled, government-run utility – Santee Cooper.
State lawmakers – who helped this politically appointed bureaucracy as it plunged the Palmetto State billions of dollars in debt via the NukeGate fiasco – haven’t committed to such a course of action just yet.
Obviously they have danced around the issue … but as of this writing, they remain unwilling to pull the trigger on a move we argued should have been made decades ago. You know … before Santee Cooper partnered with erstwhile crony capitalist firm SCANA on NukeGate – the botched construction of a pair of since-abandoned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C.
Given ongoing legislative resistance to offloading Santee Cooper, this anti-competitive albatross continues to do its worst – screwing over citizens, ratepayers, businesses and taxpayers in the Palmetto State with impunity.
The agency also continues to defy lawmakers at every turn in what we can only describe as some bizarre form of institutional cuckolding …
The underlying issue? Santee Cooper’s deteriorating economic position – which has become utterly untenable due to its cataclysmically high debt load.
In February of this year, Santee Cooper announced its intentions to erase an estimated $425 million of its $7.4 billion debt by entering into an agreement with contractor Westinghouse to sell some of the raw materials and equipment left behind at the abandoned Jenkinsville nuclear site.
Santee Cooper had claimed exclusive ownership of these abandoned materials, but was compelled to share the proceeds from their sale with Westinghouse as part of a court settlement.
In keeping with his agency’s “smoke and mirrors” approach to accounting, however, Santee Cooper’s fact-challenged chief executive officer Mark Bonsall announced in February that the estimated proceeds from this sale remained unchanged – even after agreeing to give Westinghouse a cut.
“Bonsall said he still expects Santee Cooper to get roughly the same price, even as it shares part of the proceeds with Westinghouse,” noted Andrew Brown of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, Santee Cooper’s most reliable mainstream media mouthpiece.
And yes, this $425 million estimate is a critical component of Santee Cooper’s so-called “reform” plan – a fiction it continues to foist on state lawmakers even as its most basic assumptions are proven false on an almost daily basis.
As usual, Brown’s ostensibly objective reporting included nary a dissenting syllable regarding Santee Cooper’s dubious assurances – including its promise to use the proceeds from this sale to reduce its debt load (as opposed to other things).
Obviously, we don’t have to remind our readers of everything that has happened since February. Societal shutdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic have swept across our nation, wreaking widespread havoc and doing untold damage to our economy.
The impact of the pandemic has been particularly pronounced in Santee Cooper’s service area along the Grand Strand region of South Carolina – which is home to the Palmetto State’s once-robust tourism economy.
As we reported last week, this industry has lost a staggering $5.1 billion this year … and counting.
Against such a backdrop, does Santee Cooper really still believe its auction is going to hit its marks?
We will find out soon …
According to multiple bidding websites, Santee Cooper is hosting a live webcast auction at 10:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 in the hopes of recouping some of its sunk reactor costs.
On the block?
“Tons of raw material and fabricated components to construct a power plant building and superstructure,” one auction site noted, including the “unprecedented offering of (an) unused 600 megawatt steam turbine.”
Hmmmm … sounds like a specialty item to us.
Also on the block are “jumbo I-beams, structural steel, fabricated tubing, pipe, elbows, floor grating, flats, angles, channels” and a host of other components.
(Click to view)
Beams, columns, handrails, stairs, braces are also up for auction, as are all manner of electrical components and several 55-gallon drums of “industrial gear oil.”
All told, more than 100 lots are up for bid …
Needless to say, this news outlet will be very interested in seeing how much money Santee Cooper comes away with after offloading these lots – the detritus of its failed nuclear power experiment.
“Santee has banked so much on how much money it is going to make from these sales,” one observer noted.
Indeed it has …
But if history is any indication, expect Santee Cooper’s math to be way off the mark – which would constitute the latest chink in its collapsing “reform” proposal.
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