AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster confirmed he is "actively pursuing" options to sell Santee Cooper to help potentially finish parts of the failed project VC Summer in Fairfield County.
Appearing in Graniteville at the inauguration of a $100 million solar energy project, McMaster confirmed a Wall Street Journal report indicating he was pursuing a plan to sell off the utility or the utility's 45 percent of the project.
McMaster said the buyout is an option to make power customer's higher bills over the years count to continue work on the project.
"We've got to move fast because you can't leave those facilities out there uncovered and just sitting. Things start rusting, and you need to cover them up, then that costs hundreds of millions of dollars right there, but the best thing is to find someone willing to put the money in to construct them," McMaster said.
The governor aided it may take a state law to ensure customers are not charged even higher rates to pay for the project's shutdown.
"The answer, or the next option there would seem to have someone else come in with a clean slate and take it over, someone with ample resources to do that. And these large power companies, largest in the United States that I've talking to, seem interested and we hope that they are and we hope that we can fashion a solution," McMaster said."
Last week, SCANA and Santee Cooper decided to abandon the project after years of ratepayer increases to help fund the project. Thousands of workers were laid off as a result.
The governor also said he would support a special session of the General Assembly to push legislation and that he also wants "exhaustive" hearings on the matter.
"They ought to have them quickly, and we ought to get as many facts as we can before the facts get cold. So we'll know what happened, how we can keep it from happening again, and also it may help us find a way to pick up and go on towards our goals for energy strength in South Carolina," McMaster said.
Last week, there was some optimism that another power company might come in to revive the project, and now, that optimism is growing.
Fairfield County Councilman Neil Robinson said even if only one of the two reactors is completed, it would still be huge news for the county, the Midlands, and thousands of former workers now looking for work.
Robinson said he's noticed the impact of the layoffs at Winnsboro gas stations and shops.
"There is a difference," Robinson said. "There's a somber feeling. First of all, a lot of people aren't even at the gas stations anymore. They don't have anywhere to go other than maybe look for a job. But there's a somber feel of, not hopelessness, but, 'What do we do next? What's the next move?'"
We also received some new perspective about how sudden the layoffs happened on Monday of last week. An anonymous source sent us several emails that show Monday started just like any other Monday for workers at VC Summer. Then, after lunch, that changed.