- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 31, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A Virginia company trying to buy a private utility in South Carolina says it’s also willing to manage part of a state-owned utility after the failure of a nuclear project.

News outlets reported Dominion Energy has written to South Carolina’s state-owned utility Santee Cooper offering to run parts of the business.

Dominion is also in the process of buying the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.

SCE&G and Santee Cooper had spent $9 billion whey they abandoned plans last year to build two nuclear reactors that were years behind schedule and billions over budget. They blamed the project failure on the bankruptcy of the lead contractor, Westinghouse.

Few details on the proposal were available. But a letter to Santee Cooper offered to take care of things like buying fuel for power plants and taking over jobs like human resources and accounting.



Gov. Henry McMaster has long sought to sell Santee Cooper in hopes of reducing its rates after the nuclear failure.

But Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell II wrote that no private-sector company would be able to buy Santee Cooper without increasing its electricity rates. The letter notes that the state-owned Santee Cooper doesn’t have to pay taxes and can borrow money cheaper than private businesses can.

The letter has been sent to McMaster as well as House Speaker Jay Lucas of Darlington and Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence.

Farrell wrote that letting Dominion run parts of Santee Cooper could save “hundreds of millions of dollars” by folding the operations into a larger organization. The letter does not spell out how that level of savings would be achieved.

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said the suggestion of an outside manager is to be expected since lawmakers are studying its future.

“If Dominion has an interest in Santee Cooper, they should follow that process and submit a bid or a partnership proposal through the committee that’s been tasked with determining the utility’s future,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said.

The Dominion offer on Santee Cooper comes as The South Carolina Public Service Commission is about to begin hearings on Dominions proposal to buy SCANA Corp. The regulators will decide how much customers of SCE&G should pay for the failed project.

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