Lawmakers say more accountability needed at Santee Cooper if they were to move forward with reform plan

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 at 7:27 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the third day in a row, executives with Santee Cooper made their pitch to lawmakers.

"It's a new day and we got the support of the board, management as well as the employees," Santee Cooper CEO Mark Bonsall said.

A special panel of lawmakers on the House Santee Cooper Ad Hoc Committee is trying to figure out whether to sell Santee Cooper to NextEra Energy in Florida, let Dominion Energy manage it, or let Santee Cooper reform itself.

Representative Murrell Smith, the chairman of the ad-hoc committee weighing Santee Cooper's future, said lawmakers will make a decision this year on one of the three bids.

"We owe that to the taxpayers of this state and your ratepayers and we're going to move forward," Smith added.

Bonsall said the culture at Santee Cooper has changed over the years and they can be trusted to reform itself.

"The rest of the company has learned that lesson deeply and you have generations of employees that will never forget this experience," he said talking about the nuclear fiasco.

According to Santee Cooper, their reform plan would keep rates stable for seven years, pay off $3.6 billion in debt in 12 years, and improve transparency.

Lawmakers said they aren't sold on the governance part of their plan.

"I don't think anyone sitting around this table is going to be satisfied by letting you institute your own reform plan and let’s say you learned your lesson from three years ago and you're not going to repeat it," Rep. Smith said.

Chairman Smith asked Santee Cooper to return with suggestions for legislation to improve oversight of the state-owned utility. He believes improved accountability would be the only way lawmakers would accept the reform plan.

“Everyone’s been burned by it,” he said.

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