Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce says they support a sale of Santee Cooper in 2021

Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 6:57 PM EDT
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GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - A group representing some African-American owned businesses in South Carolina said the state should sell Santee Cooper.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers were considering three different options, they were either going to vote to sell Santee Cooper, reform it or manage it. The pandemic shortened the legislative session and the issue was put on hold.

Lawmakers are set to decide the state-owned utility’s future in 2021.

Tuesday morning, the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce voiced their support for the sale of Santee Cooper to Cbased out of Florida.

Chamber President and CEO Marilyn Hemingway said some of the big issues that matter to them are the nuclear debt, access to clean energy, and diversity at the state-owned utility.

Santee Cooper said they are addressing these issues under their reform plan.

During the press conference, Hemingway said she believes NextEra would bring more clean energy to the Palmetto State. “We understand that with a healthy environment, we will have healthy individuals, healthy businesses and a healthy community,” she said.

Hemingway said the lack of diversity among leadership at Santee Cooper concerns her as well. “Their executive management team has a history of also being all white. Due to pressure placed upon Santee Cooper from the Gullah Geechee Chamber and other entities, they finally promoted a highly qualified African American female to the executive team.”

Santee Cooper sent us a statement this afternoon. A spokeswoman wrote:

"Santee Cooper is moving forward with key elements that transform our generation portfolio. We are currently reviewing proposals to add up to 500 megawatts of solar power, with contracts to be let in the next few months. We are also closing four coal units as part of this leaner, greener transformation. Our power rates are already significantly lower than the state and national averages, and our reliability ranks 4th out of more than 550 investor-owned utilities and cooperatives across the country. We report demographics and are ranked annually among the top state agencies by the SC Human Affairs Commission for having a workforce reflective of its community.

The legislature rejected all proposals presented earlier this year regarding Santee Cooper, so I’m not sure what was endorsed today. We do wish this organization would stop taking shots at our employees. The executive referenced in Ms. Hemingway’s statement was promoted based on her excellent track record, education and professional accomplishments, period. She is also not the first African-American on our executive team."

Hemingway said they are urging their members to contact lawmakers about this issue. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us in South Carolina to be part of a building a new table that will make impacts on our rural and marginalized communities,” she said.

Lawmakers are set to return to Columbia in January 2021.

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