Featured Image: The Post and Courier
In July, the Department of Administration announced they’d selected four firms, costing $20 million, to advise lawmakers on the Santee Cooper bidding process. Just weeks before this announcement, Santee Cooper dropped the bombshell they’d hired a new CEO with a $1.1 million per year contract, almost doubling previous CEO, Lonnie Carter’s salary, and a new deputy CEO with a $560,000 contract. The pair is set to make over $2 million when including their hefty bonuses.
Both announcements have South Carolina residents and Santee Cooper customers even more worried about the future of their utility rates.
One resident wrote to the Post and Courier discussing the systematic problems Santee Cooper has had throughout recent years stating, “While Santee Cooper is state-owned, it’s highly unlikely there will ever be a direct bailout courtesy of state taxpayers. The debt will continue to be paid by its customers on monthly bills that keep climbing higher when the average person in its service area lives on just $27,065 a year.”
Because while privately-owned utility companies’ rates are monitored by South Carolina’s Public Service Commission, Santee Cooper’s are not. As a state-owned agency, one vote between the utility’s board of directors can simply raise rates. And as Santee Cooper’s debt continues to increase, so will customer’s rates.
A second resident addressed his concerns with the positive sentiment some have shown for the utility’s new CEO stating, “Where else in the world would it make sense for a public utility to lost billions of dollars and have state invite offers for a sale, but then allow its board to hire administrators for hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince those same elected officials not to sell” in a letter to the Post and Courier.
It is clear South Carolina residents are fed up with the missteps Santee Cooper continues to make, costing Santee Cooper direct serve and co-op customers money. With the average customer making just over $27,000 per year, higher rates are not a cost which they should have to worry about. Customers deserve a solution to the debt where those who are responsible pay, not hard-working customers.