From Bea Wray

I recently wrote about direct Santee Cooper clients and the potential that they might EACH pay on average $1,292 annually for 36 years (over $49,000 in total) in order to cover the Santee Cooper portion of the debt incurred from the failed VC Summer nuclear plant.

South Carolinians in every county have already paid some of the construction costs and most will be further impacted. Legal battles still unfolding will determine which people will be stuck holding most of the bag. Understanding how electric co-ops work and how some customers are direct whereas others are indirect customers of Santee Cooper is something I am trying to grasp and thus it will be the focus of my next blog post.

For now, I want to share some observations.

When I was researching for the previous blog post about the cost to consumers, I spent a great deal of time staring at a map of South Carolina and really trying to understand who are the people most impacted. The Santee Cooper direct and indirect customers are at the greatest risk. They are shown in light and dark green and along the coast. Who are they? What are their needs? How prepared and capable might they be to withstand a $49,000 hit?

This past Saturday while volunteering with my son at the South Carolina Food Bank, I got a glimpse. Our leader was wearing a t-shirt with ten red applies depicting their service areas along South Carolina’s coast. The food bank delivers 28 million pounds annually to these communities.

This week, over fifty volunteers managed numerous tasks like stuffing backpacks and delivery boxes, labeling, and sorting. My son and I were placed in a group with nine others. Our assignment was to work through four huge bins of canned vegetables which had recently been collected from grocery stores. Our task was to clean the cans, ensure they were all vegetables, check expiration dates, and make certain that any dents in the can were not too great to obstruct the opening of the can. Then we sorted them into F2E and non. F2E stands for Foods to Encourage which is a program of Feeding America.org to encourage healthy food options. When it comes to canned vegetables 230 grams of sodium is the dividing line. All cans with a sodium content 230 and below went to a F2E box and anything above went to a general vegetables box. When a box is filled with 30 to 35 pounds, we seal it, label it, and stack it onto palettes of 16 boxes. Did you know that hearts of palm are filled with salt? 940 grams worth!

Seeing all the hard work and leaving with a slightly sore back, I smiled to think that our little group served to feed roughly 28 families for the coming weeks. I thought about the $1,292 extra already struggling families will be paying each year in order to keep their electric bill paid. I recognized that if I have $107 less per month to pay my Costco grocery bill, having a few 35 pound boxes of vegetables might mitigate that gap. I wondered how many more people will need to be served by the Lowcountry Food Bank? How many more volunteers will need to step up? Then I wondered the real question which was to question my logic. Why is it that the South Carolina legislature allows such a burden on individuals and requires clean up for mistakes to be placed on non-profits? I am hopeful that they are asking themselves this same question as I note that a committee of lawmakers met this week with representatives from Santee Cooper.