Legislation Reforms State Utility - Santee Cooper
STATE: House Passes Santee Cooper Reform Bill
Columbia – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House voted by a vote of 104-7 to approve the Santee Cooper reform bill. This piece of legislation is the fifth bill included in the House’s ratepayer protection package. The three-pronged approach (1) provides a new governance structure to hold the Santee Cooper Board of Directors accountable, (2) increases ratepayer protections by creating the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund, and (3) creates the Santee Cooper Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee (SCJERC) that will determine whether a sale is in the best interest of ratepayers and taxpayers and puts a transparent process in place to vet potential buyers.
“Because Santee Cooper is a state-owned utility, it is immensely important that its future be determined in a careful manner that best protects South Carolina taxpayers and ratepayers. By giving the Governor the authority to immediately remove the Board of Directors, the House is showing its commitment to protecting ratepayers by holding those accountable who were at the center of the VC Summer collapse. Additionally, the creation of the Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund will force Santee Cooper’s board to prioritize long-term ratepayer relief.
“A uniform process must exist to evaluate whether a sale of Santee Cooper is in the best interests of South Carolina ratepayers and taxpayers. This decision cannot be made behind closed doors through back room deals. South Carolinians deserve to have their voices heard regarding the possible sale. This legislation provides that opportunity and offers a transparent process to vet bids from potential buyers.
"As session begins to draw to a close, I am hopeful that the Senate will move quickly to consider this piece of legislation, along with the four other bills included in the House’s ratepayer protection package. Every single day that passes without Senate action denies South Carolina ratepayers of the protections they deserve.”
Provisions Included in the Amended Version of the Bill:
- Governance Restructuring – Grants the Governor the ability to remove at-will all current Santee Cooper board members; Shortens the terms from 7 years to 4 years; Enhances qualification criteria; Requires the board to cooperate with the Santee Cooper Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee; mandates the board implement the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund
- Ratepayer Protection and Relief – Creates the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund and requires it to be explicitly used for rate relief. Funds include: Toshiba settlement money, any gains made from the sale or salvage of VC Summer assets, cost savings from governance
- Creation of the Santee Cooper Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee (SCJERC) – Committee will consist of 9 Members (3 appointed by select House members, 3 appointed by select members of the Senate, and 3 Gubernatorial appointments)
- Defined SCJERC Objectives - Create a path forward that best protects Santee Cooper ratepayers and taxpayers; Determine whether or not Santee Cooper should be sold (in total or in part) and agree to a valuation; Conduct hearings to receive bids in a transparent process