Lawmakers debate over Santee Cooper, the company's future and helping customers

Lawmakers debate over Santee Cooper, the company's future and helping customers

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina lawmakers are looking for ways to keep electric customers from paying higher power bills, after the nuclear fall-out at V.C. Summer.

Governor Henry McMaster and the General Assembly are considering selling state-owned utility company Santee Cooper - the debate on just how to do that heated up Wednesday morning.

Letters back and forth from House and Senate leaders to the Governor tell they've all been speaking with companies interested in buying Santee Cooper, but the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem don't want anything done too fast.

In a Senate meeting today, a committee questioned Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter on the company's debt and learned it could be hard to sell.

Santee Cooper is 80 percent of its book value in debt he calls that normal for a public utility. But others were concerned, and believe selling could be the only way to get customers out of paying that debt. Senators expressed their frustrations.

"But I mean, y'all have kind of sat here for two hearings and pointed at SCANA and their mismanagement and you were a junior partner and giving this impression that you everything you've done is right, when you're 80 percent leveraged and going further and further in debt, and you've got it set where it's difficult for the State to even talk about selling Santee Cooper," State Senator Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington) said.

The House and Senate leaders and the Governor all said in their letters they want to hire an outside person to evaluate just how much Santee Cooper is worth.

Lawmakers I've spoken with believe this issue won't go away soon - that it will be a priority throughout this year's legislative session.

Governor McMaster also expressed in his letter to House and Senate leaders today, that there are efforts underway to get help from the Trump administration.

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