The leader of the nation’s largest energy company has no plans to play along with a Palmetto political vendetta launched by the most liberal “Republican” member of the South Carolina General Assembly.
Now we will wait to see how far this liberal leader will go in his quest for vengeance … and how much rope other lawmakers are willing to extend to him in the process.
In a letter (.pdf) dated January 15, 2021, Jim Robo – chief executive officer of Florida-based NextEra Energy – told S.C. Senate judiciary chairman Luke Rankin that his company would “respectfully … not be providing additional documentation” to the party-switching Horry county lawmaker. Robo’s letter came in response to a December 31, 2020 demand for documents tied to the company’s efforts to purchase habitually mismanaged, debt-ridden government-run utility, Santee Cooper.
According to Robo, NextEra – which last fall surpassed ExxonMobil to became the largest energy company in America – has already provided lawmakers and regulators with “a very significant quantity of information and material” related to the company and its bid to purchase habitually mismanaged, debt-ridden government-run utility, Santee Cooper.
“As you know, all of this information, along with the information and data we routinely file as a business operating in a heavily regulated industry, is readily accessible to you and to any interested person,” Robo wrote.
Two-and-a-half weeks ago, this news outlet reported on Rankin’s ongoing efforts to exact revenge against those individuals and entities he believes opposed him in his 2020 reelection bid. Part of that effort involves uncovering an alleged conspiracy involving NextEra, sources familiar with the “investigation” told this news outlet.
Rankin’s effort has been greeted with mixed reviews … in part due to his documented hypocrisy when it comes to the high-profile energy issues underlying this so-called “investigation” and in part due to concerns among his supporters that their own campaign activities would be dragged out into the light as a result of the inquiry.
“Nobody wants this fight,” one state senator told us recently, citing a half-dozen state lawmakers who allegedly have direct ties to specific energy industry interests.
Or other potential entanglements …
Meanwhile, the gambit appears to have failed in slacking legislative appetite to offload Santee Cooper – a state-owned power provider that helped plunge the Palmetto State billions of dollars in debt thanks to its starring role in the now notorious NukeGate fiasco.
According to our sources, there are enough votes in the S.C. Senate to approve a sale of Santee Cooper – and recent rules changes in the chamber make it easier for lawmakers to advance bills over the objection of obstructionist lawmakers like Rankin.
As we documented in a recent post, Rankin is one of several opponents of selling Santee Cooper (Larry Grooms and Stephen Goldfinch are two others) who has received campaign contributions from the agency’s board chairman, Dan Ray. Rankin also allegedly has personal financial ties to at least one Santee Cooper board member.
Isn’t that the very sort of thing his “investigation” purports to uncover?
Either way, the fact remains no other lawmaker in the S.C. General Assembly bears as much direct responsibility for NukeGate as Rankin.
With the 58-year-old trial lawyer serving as enabler-in-chief, Santee Cooper and its crony capitalist partner, SCANA, were allowed to raise energy rates on South Carolina consumers and incur new debt as they constructed a pair of next-generation pressurized water reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear power generating station in Fairfield county. These reactors were supposed to come online in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
That never happened, though. Despite a massive cash outlay, the project was abandoned on July 31, 2017 with the reactors only half-completed -leaving ratepayers and taxpayers holding the bag to the tune of $10 billion. Shortly thereafter it was revealed SCANA and Santee Cooper executives knew the project was doomed – but lied to regulators and the public to keep the gravy train rolling.
(Click to view)
(Via: High Flyer SC)
In addition to lying to the public, Santee Cooper also misled its investors related to the NukeGate project – the collapse of which has caused the state-owned utility’s debt to soar to nearly $7.5 billion.
NextEra submitted the winning bid to purchase Santee Cooper back in February, a $9.6 billion offer Robo said would provide for “the immediate eliminate of all of Santee Cooper’s existing debt, billions of dollars in new investment in clean energy generation throughout the state of South Carolina, hundreds of millions of dollars in additional refunds to Santee Cooper customers in the first year, hundreds of millions of dollars to be remitted as general revenues to the State and billions of dollars in new state and local taxes.”
“We would respectfully suggest that no single initiative, legislative or otherwise, could better position South Carolina to attract business and industry while protecting its environment,” Robo added.
Well, that or income tax relief …
Rankin’s “investigation” into NextEra is part of a two-pronged approach to keep this atrociously managed, debt-ridden, habitually dishonest “rogue agency” under state control. The other part? Rankin’s so-called “reform plan” – which he unveiled last week.
As we have previously noted, Rankin is desperate to take the focus off of Santee Cooper, which has found itself mired in scandal after scandal in recent months – earning the ire of a growing number of legislative leaders as a result of its perpetual duplicity.
Most importantly, though, Rankin is hoping this investigation will cause lawmakers to ignore the fact that all of the assumptions associated with Santee Cooper’s so-called “reform plan” have collapsed.
That means the utility will be forced to continue relying on its aging, environmentally unfriendly coal-fired plants – which are going to be increasingly expensive to operate (and which expose the embattled utility to mounting financial losses and legal problems).
That leaves the state with no realistic option but to sell … or to continue passing the costs associated with the utility’s massive debt on to ratepayers and taxpayers.
Our view on all of this? It has remained unchanged for the last thirteen years, which is when we first called on state lawmakers to sell the utility “with all profits accruing to the general fund.” Had lawmakers done what we suggested at the time, the state would still be reaping the rewards – and would have never accumulated billions of dollars in NukeGate-related debt.
Instead they listened to Rankin and dug themselves a $10 billion hole …
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