Santee Cooper is a top topic at Statehouse Tuesday

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Santee Cooper

A proposal allowing experts to ask for bids to buy state-owned utility Santee Cooper is getting quick action in the South Carolina House. 

A subcommittee and the full House Ways and Means Committee have the proposal on their agendas Tuesday. 

Not everyone wants to sell Santee Cooper.

Senator Grooms told News 2 there are several reasons to believe customers will pay more if Santee Cooper is sold. 

Santee Cooper is planning rate increases to pay the nuclear plant debt.

A 5% rate increase begins in a couple of years, followed by 1% increases during two additional years after that. 

Grooms says the consultant hired by the General Assembly to provide their professional opinion has said if Santee Cooper is purchased, ratepayers could end up paying 15% more on top of those 5% and 1% rate hikes. 

Grooms also said ratepayers should expect to pay lots since Santee Cooper rates are already lower than most other providers in the state. He believes if the utility is sold, the new buyer will refinance the debt, which also increases costs, which would have to be paid by ratepayers.

Monday the Santee Cooper board met for the first time since January. They discussed $1 million that needs to be paid for defense attorneys who were hired to counsel Santee Cooper employees who were being interviewed by investigators of the failed nuclear site.

The lawyers billed around $475 per hour for their services.

Board Chairman Charlie Condon said he felt like since employees did not do anything wrong, internal lawyers  or even lawyers from the Attorney General’s office  could have offered advice at a much cheaper price.

We had a good frank discussion about that. I think an expense of more than $1 million for criminal defense lawyers is out of line, said Condon. Even if our policy calls for that to be paid, I would hope that there would be some economizing. That’s a concern I have. I think the policy ought to be re-examined considering the results of the policy.

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