From Scott Carlberg

Interesting discussion about Santee Cooper’s recent legal settlement payout to ratepayers on WVOC talk-radio, Columbia, a couple weeks ago. The discussion shows how much is left unexplained by the utility. Murky.

The on-air discussion notes the $200 million that will get paid to Santee Cooper ratepayers: “So 200 million dollars paid by Santee Cooper to ratepayers.”

In the discussion a clarifying but important point was made,  “Where does that money come from? Santee Cooper is owned by, well, you and me. Whether you get power from them or not.”

The morning co-host says, “I think that’s something that people still forget. I mean, that is a state-run utility. I know it sounds like a name, just like Dominion. So you don’t think about the fact that, oh, no, wait a minute, that’s not a privately owned company.”

Santee Cooper is owned by South Carolina. Do you think South Carolinians apparently accept the behavior; accept the financial burden placed on the customers of Santee Cooper through the massive debt? So, it is the responsibility of South Carolina legislators, then, to get it right. Do they have time, experience and know how to run a utility?

An issue is that ratepayers pay in a lot to get a little money back, then? $200 million. From where? (Check the Santee Cooper seat cushions and pockets in the coat closets. Maybe there is more.) That’s a lot of cash to have available. Or will more debt be floated? Who can answer?

Santee Cooper wants to reform itself, what does that look like?

The hosts on the radio show consider a sale of the company. NextEra has made a proposal for the company. They ask, though, when all these payments are considered: “Well, they’ll look at the deal. I mean, just as Dominion did, you know, they’ll still think of what they’re — what they’re taking in and what they’ve promised to ratepayers before they make a final offer.”

Having seen a couple corporate takeovers in my career, sometimes a target company will go to great lengths to make itself unattractive. A suitor goes away. It is called a “scorched earth” strategy. Is this possibly what is at play with Santee Cooper?

Who knows? All fair questions.  In any case, following the situation requires a flowchart of issues that seem to come up routinely at Santee Cooper in the past three years. Lots of questions. Surprises. Should it be that way with a government/state-owned company?  Who has the answers?