Tom Davis on SC Nuclear Power Debacle

Tom Davis

SC Nuclear

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The State newspaper published a story today in regard to the nuclear-reactor debacle in Fairfield County, which chronicled the history of the Base Load Review Act that passed in 2007 – the law that allowed SCE&G to stick ratepayers with billions of dollars in rate-hikes to pay for something that will never provide any electrical power to our grid.

That story is printed below and can also be accessed here. In part, the story says this:

“Drafted with input from an attorney for SCE&G, the law reads like a wish list for power companies, critics now say. At the time, then-Gov. Mark Sanford refused to sign the [Base Load Review Act], citing reservations about its costs to South Carolinians. But by the time the proposal reached the Republican’s desk, there was no stopping it. Other than Sanford, hardly anyone blinked an eye when the bill passed the Legislature a decade ago, becoming law just months after it first was introduced.”

I was Gov. Sanford’s chief of staff at the time and recall all too well the General Assembly locomotive, powered by SCE&G lobbyists, that ran over my boss. Legislative leaders are now – ten years too late – calling for the General Assembly to reconvene in order to temporarily block power-rate hikes on residents and discuss a repeal of the Base Load Review Act.

I would support such a block, and also the repeal of the Base Load Review Act that allows SCE&G to socialize its investment risk. But we must do more; we must start taking broader steps to restore market forces in our energy sector and take as much power as possible out of the control of politicians and their special-interest supporters.

Here in South Carolina we have political fingerprints all over the power-generation industry, from state ownership of Santee Cooper to ratepayer subsidizing of SCE&G’s risk. The consequence of such political influence by a handful of legislators is now laid bare.

Minor reform around the edges – which is generally all that the legislators in control of the system will allow – isn’t going to cut it this time. And one of the things on the table must be the desirability of having a state-owned utility like Santee Cooper; we must seriously consider whether privatizing it would be in the people’s best interests. I believe it would.

Previous efforts to privatize Santee Cooper have been blocked by legislative leaders who want to maintain their control, but the time for such sacred political cows has passed. From the construction of roads and bridges to the generation of power, and more, the people’s interests have been ill-served by an opaque clique run by Columbia insiders. Time to clean house.

Tom Davis
State Senator for Beaufort and Jasper counties

How SC lawmakers passed a 2007 law that failed SC power customers


“An act to protect South Carolina ratepayers.”

The first words of the 2007 law that put S.C. power customers on the hook for financing nuclear reactors now drip with dramatic irony, days after a multi-billion-dollar nuclear expansion in Fairfield County was abandoned.

“It basically allowed the utilities a blank check at the ratepayers’ expense,” said state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland. “There was no incentive to move quickly, efficiently and to control costs. Zero.”

After the state-owned Santee Cooper and Cayce-based SCE&G utilities Monday said they would halt construction of two partially built nuclear reactors near Jenkinsville, there are few defenders of the law that paved the way for the bungled project.

Read more.

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