It takes a special kind of gullibility to trust South Carolina Senate judiciary committee chairman Luke Rankin – especially when it comes to matters involving the Palmetto State’s government-run utility, Santee Cooper.
After all, this guy was the legislative architect of NukeGate – the command economic scam which saw Santee Cooper and its private sector partner SCANA fleece ratepayers to the tune of billions of dollars on a pair of incomplete, since-abandoned nuclear reactors.
In addition to sponsoring the legislation which directly led to that crony capitalist disaster, Rankin – the most fiscally liberal “Republican” in the entire S.C. General Assembly – was one of the lawmakers tasked with providing oversight of the utilities responsible for the project.
Clearly, he failed on all fronts … yet now he wants to be entrusted with cleaning up the mess?
Typical South Carolina … rewarding failure at every turn.
Anyway, Rankin’s so-called “reform” bill – S. 464 – does absolutely nothing to fundamentally reform, restructure, rehabilitate or in any way, shape or form materially resolve the underlying issues with Santee Cooper.
Most prominent among these issues? The rogue agency’s multi-billion dollar debt – which continues to escalate (perhaps deliberately so).
Santee Cooper has claimed it is capable of addressing a big chunk of this debt by transitioning to greener, more efficient energy sources … but that myth has gone up in smoke.
Rankin’s bill also does nothing to address the failed governing structure of this utility – keeping it firmly under state control and tinkering only around the edges of its politically appointed board of directors.
Currently, Santee Cooper’s politically appointed board members serve seven-year terms. The latest version of Rankin’s bill would trim these terms to six years – and limit members to serving two consecutive terms.
Still, that is a dozen years in office ...
Also, it is not immediately clear whether this 12-year term limit would be applied to sitting board members, whose seats could be insulated from this so-called “reform.”
Rankin’s bill would further add a pair of new board seats to the mix to ostensibly create a “bigger tent” – including one representative of the statewide energy cooperative that currently serves as a glorified “middleman” in the sale of Santee Cooper’s power.
Elevating a position that should not even exist, in other words …
In fact, Rankin’s committee spent nearly an hour on Monday afternoon debating whether these two new board memberships should be ex officio (i.e. non-voting) positions – and whether they should be allowed to sit at the same table as existing board members during the agency’s monthly meetings.
Again, though … is all of this tinkering around the edges really the sort of fundamental, systemic change South Carolina ratepayers and taxpayers are expecting in the aftermath of NukeGate?
Seriously, Santee Cooper just cost the state of South Carolina billions of dollars – for which its ratepayers are receiving pennies in return.
Is this really all lawmakers are going to do about it?
Even worse, Rankin’s bill would extend government health care benefits to all Santee Cooper board members (benefits these members were previously receiving extra-legally). In other words, Rankin’s legislation rewards Santee Cooper board members for previously appropriating unto themselves a taxpayer-funded benefit they were not entitled to receive.
Steal from the store … get store credit.
(Click to view)
(Via: S.C. Senate)
So … why is Rankin (above) going out of his way to reward an agency that continues to defy the legislature, rack up debt and generally mismanage its aging, environmentally unfriendly infrastructure?
Well, as readers of this news outlet are aware Rankin is in business with one of the utility’s board members – and is padding his campaign war chest with contributions from Santee Cooper’s chairman.
(Oh, and about that campaign war chest …)
Judging from the text of this legislation, it is clear Rankin has absolutely no interest in fixing the mess he helped create during NukeGate. He does, however, have an interest in continuing to exert government authority over this utility – and in fact wants to expand government authority over its operations while adding a new taxpayer-funded benefit for its results-challenged leaders.
All of which, again, is absolutely unbelievable under the circumstances …
If we have said it once we have said it a million times: South Carolinians simply cannot trust the same people who led this state into the NukeGate debacle to lead us out of it. Which is why the only “real” reform is to offload this utility to the private sector immediately – something this news outlet has been arguing the state should do for the last thirteen years.
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