South Carolina just swore-in four new members for its Public Service Commission, the group that oversees the utility industry in the state. With this change there are no commissioners left who were part of the VC Summer project problem.
For all purposes, it is a new PSC ball game. BUT, a huge gap remains. More on that in a second.
First, good work, SC General Assembly! You have new blood in this important organization. The new commissioners provide various energy and business viewpoints. There ought to be constructive debates and decisions ahead. (A quick overview of the commissioners’ background is at the end of this blog.)
Second, the goal now: Put the PSC to work. Let the PSC work. No second guessing. Support them.
Third, most of all – don’t do half the job, General Assembly.
Here is the gap. Santee Cooper remains the unregulated rogue energy entity. Risk remains. No control.
A new, high-quality PSC is toothless when it comes to Santee Cooper. The PSC stands aside for Santee Cooper even as it regulates Duke Energy and Dominion Energy.
Apply logic. General Assembly, with a new PSC in place, protect your citizens, manage the risk, show discipline. Sell Santee Cooper. Get the Santee Cooper problem out of the General Assembly, move on to other business.
Make sure Santee Cooper customers (e.g., citizens, voters) benefit from the PSC you put in place. Sell Santee Cooper to an investor-owned utility so there is consistent regulation across most of the state.
The South Carolina General Assembly has stark choices:
- More of the same surprises or top-flight planning and execution with NextEra.
- More babysitting Santee Cooper or delegating energy work to one of the best utilities in the nation.
- A poor project track record or a track record of renewable and infrastructure completions.
- Promises of “reform” or proven capabilities.
- Being left behind in energy or taking a lead.
- Good-ole-boyism or a culture of diversity and inclusion.
In this election season, citizens are blasted with messages of officeholders being ready to do the right thing, watch waste, take a tough stand, and make sure that the average citizen is not hurt. The sale of Santee Cooper is a perfect litmus test for those claims.
- Will the General Assembly affirm its confidence in its new PSC commissioners by selling Santee Cooper and making it part of that system?
- Will officeholders condone the state running a power business in the face of its failures?
- Will officeholders bring in a multi-billion sale for the state or support a multi-billion past-due bill for Santee Cooper consumers?
Let’s finish the job, General Assembly.
South Carolina Public Service Commissioners – italics signify new commissioners:
Justin T. Williams: Sixth District: All of Allendale, Hampton, Jasper, Bamberg, Calhoun, Clarendon, Williamsburg, and parts of Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Berkeley, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter, Florence, and Beaufort
Commissioner Williams earned his B.A. from the University of South Carolina. He earned his J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Justin is a Judge Advocate in the United States Army Reserve and holds the rank of Captain. Commissioner Williams’ former areas of law practice included workers’ compensation, civil litigation, and criminal law.
Florence P. Belser: Second District: All of Barnwell, Lexington, and Aiken, as well as parts of Orangeburg and Richland.
PSC Vice Chair
- Served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable James “Mac” Morris from 1988 to 1990.
- Served as an associate in private practice from 1990 to 1991.
- Served as an assistant solicitor for South Carolina’s Third Judicial Circuit from 1991 to 1993.
- Worked as staff attorney and deputy general counsel for the Public Service Commission from 1993 to 2003.
- Served as the executive assistant at the PSC from 2003 to 2004.
- Served as general counsel in the Office of Regulatory Staff from 2004 to 2019.
Headen Thomas: Fifth District: All of Cherokee, York, Union, Chester, Lancaster, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, and parts of Spartanburg, Newberry, and Sumter
Commissioner Thomas was employed by Piedmont Natural Gas Company in Charlotte from 1983 to 2006. He worked at Piedmont as a Tax Staff Accountant, Corporate Tax Manager, Director of Investor Relations, and Director of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. Most recently, prior to his election, he was involved in two businesses – one in real estate investment, zoning, permitting and related activities. Additionally, since 2009 he was involved in tax compliance and planning for a wide range of clients with Moore & Moore CPA’s, P.A. in Rock Hill.
Delton W. Powers, Jr.: Seventh District: Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion, Horry, Georgetown.
- Member of the SC Coastal Council and the Office of Coastal Resource Management
- Elected to the South Carolina Coastal Council (1985-1993)
- Elected to the Office of Coastal Resource Management
Stephen “Mike” Caston: Third District: All of Oconee, Pickens, Anderson, Abbeville, Laurens, Greenwood, McCormick, Edgefield, and Saluda, as well as parts of Newberry and Greenville.
Elected & Utility Experience:
- Board member of the Pickens County Water and Sewer Authority (later became known as Pickens County Public Service Commission) 1985-1991
- SC American Water Works Association (SCAWWA) – Chair 1999-2000
- American Water Works Association (AWWA) – Board of Directors 2004-2007
- SC Water Utility Council – Chair
- SC Water Environment Association (SCWEA) – Chair of numerous committees (1990-2000)
- Water Environment Federation (WEF) – member (1990 to present)
- Blue Ridge Foothills District of SCWEA – Chair 1996-1997
Carolyn “Carolee” Williams: First District – Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester
- Conservation Voters of South Carolina
- City of Charleston, Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability. Representing City of Charleston on its Resilience Initiatives with emergency management and public service associates related to 100 Resilient Cities, Charleston Resilience Network and National Academies of Sciences Resilient America Roundtable. Manage Charleston’s Green Business Challenge which supports businesses as they work to reduce their use of energy and water.
Tom Ervin: Fourth District: Greenville and Spartanburg
Ervin graduated from the South Carolina School of Law in 1977, after which he was admitted to practice in South Carolina. He then returned to his hometown of Honea Path where he served as town attorney. Tom later worked as an assistant prosecutor for the Tenth Judicial Circuit in Anderson. In 1979, Tom was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives representing House District 7. In 1984, Tom was appointed by the Governor to serve as a Commissioner on the Industrial Commission. Tom was elected by the General Assembly to serve as resident circuit judge for Anderson and Oconee Counties.
After retiring from the bench in 1999, Tom was named the first President of Foothills Community Foundation, a non-profit serving Oconee, Pickens and Anderson Counties. Tom moved to Greenville in 2002 to join the employment law firm of Jackson Lewis. In 2003, Ervin married Kathryn Williams of Greenville and joined her law firm to practice law.