S.C.’s nuclear meltdown: What should happen next?
Here’s the issue: Santee Cooper and SCANA, the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas, tried to build two nuclear reactors and failed. They just pulled the plug on the projects, costing $9 billion and 5,000 jobs so far.
Here’s the question: Who is going to pay for this disaster?
This is a huge, complex mess and the answer will be an issue for years to come. It affects the family budgets of 2.2 million power customers in all 46 counties. The bill could be as high as $9,000 for a family of four.
There will be finger-pointing, charges and countercharges, lawsuits and countersuits. But there are two things we know for certain:
• The people with absolutely no responsibility for this disaster — the ratepayers — are being asked to pay billions of dollars, perhaps for as long as 60 years.
• Those who are responsible — SCANA, Santee Cooper and the politicians who passed legislation to enable this to happen — will be blaming each other when they are all at fault.
Based on what we know now, here’s what I believe should be done.
Over the last 10 years, SCE&G has hit customers with nine rate increases. Customers are already paying 20 percent of their bills for the nuclear facilities. Now they want to stick them with a bill of $2 billion (others say it could be as much as $8 billion) over the next 60 years to cover the cost of their failure.
The entire board of directors and senior management should resign. They should return all raises, bonuses and stock options they’ve received since the project began in 2008.
Last year the top five senior managers made on average $2.8 million and CEO Kevin Marsh made $6.1 million. When they leave, they should get no golden parachute or severance of any kind. To avoid disruption, it could be done within one year.
They should also roll back their rates to 2008 levels, plus inflation. How will they pay their debts? That’s their problem; it’s called capitalism.
Santee Cooper is owned by the state and provides electrical power to 20 consumer-owned electrical cooperatives. It has imposed numerous rate increases on 1.5 million customers and announced it will raise rates another 10 percent in December.
Santee Cooper has worked hand in glove with SCANA on every aspect of this project, most notably spending vast sums to secure the support of legislators and other politicians they needed to make it all happen.
The entire board of directors and senior management of Santee Cooper also should resign. They should return all pay raises and bonuses they’ve received since the project began.
Last year the top five senior managers made on average $321,682 and president Lonnie Carter made $540,929. When they leave, they should get no golden parachute or severance of any kind. To avoid disruption, it could be done within one year.
They should also roll back their rates to 2008 levels, plus inflation. How will they pay their debts? Serious consideration should be given to selling Santee Cooper.
There are seven commissioners in charge of regulating public utilities. They approved the project and passed on each of the rate increases by SCE&G.
All of the commissioners should resign and return any pay raises they’ve received since the project began. Last year the commissioners had an average salary of $109.407.
The whole Public Service Commission should be reformed by the Legislature to prevent this type of oversight failure in the future.