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Who Blocked Russell Ott’s Bid To Serve On Energy Oversight Panel?

Regulatory drama among ranking South Carolina “Republicans …”

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A pair of ranking “Republican” leaders in the S.C. House of Representatives are said to be at each other’s throats after one of them blocked a bid by a Democratic lawmaker to join an influential energy oversight panel.

According to our sources, state representative Russell Ott was rebuffed in his bid to become a member of the Public Utility Review Commission (PURC) – a legislatively dominated panel that is supposed to protect consumers by overseeing political appointees chosen to regulate the energy industry.

Has it done its job?

Um, no … not even a little bit.

In fact, PURC has demonstrably failed in its mission during the Palmetto State’s ongoing NukeGate debacle – the botched construction of a pair of since-abandoned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. that set taxpayers and ratepayers back by $10 billion.

Astoundingly, left-of-center lawmakers like S.C. senate judiciary chairman Luke Rankin, Senate labor commerce and industry chairman Thomas Alexander and House labor commerce and industry committee chairman Bill Sandifer have remained ensconced on this panel despite their collective failure … with the latter allegedly continuing to enjoy its “Purcs.”

Meanwhile, Rankin continues to act as though he should dictate energy policy for the state … even though he is more culpable for NukeGate than any other lawmaker.

Anyway, according to our sources Ott’s bid for a PURC seat was denied by Sandifer – at least that’s what the fifth-term lawmaker from St. Matthews, S.C. was told.

Is that true, though?

Lawmakers familiar with the situation tell us Ott’s candidacy was really rejected by powerful S.C. House speaker Jay Lucas – who conveniently pinned the blame for the snub on Sandifer when he was asked about the decision.

“Sandifer wanted him, Lucas did not,” a source following the appointment drama told us. “Lucas told (Ott) Sandifer blocked him.”


Never one to hide his emotions, Sandifer was reportedly “red-faced” and “fuming” when informed of Lucas’ alleged deception – and vowed to exact his revenge on his chamber’s leader.

As for Ott, he declined to share his thoughts on the situation when we reached him early Tuesday.

“No comment,” he told us.

To be clear: We have no dog in this fight. We believe PURC is a completely superfluous entity – especially in light of its galling failure to do the one job it was supposed to do vis-à-vis NukeGate. Zooming the lens back further, PURC is one of several legislative panels which needlessly infringes upon executive authority in the Palmetto State – which continues to be one of South Carolina’s most fundamental problems when it comes to erecting a competitive government structure.

Ultimately, the only thing this drama served to reinforce for us was the need to do away with this panel – or at the very least stop allowing lawmakers like Rankin, Alexander and Sandifer to continue exerting influence over an industry they helped implode less than four years ago.

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