On Wednesday, state lawmakers grilled Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter about the possible sale of the state-owned utility.
In a presentation that lasted for hours, Carter went over potential issues that could hamper a sale – including debt, numerous assets and regulatory entanglements.
According to a September credit report from Standard and Poor’s, Santee Cooper has about $8.2 billion in long-term debt, representing about 80 percent of the value of its assets. Of that, about $4.6 billion is tied to the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.
Santee Cooper’s future remains uncertain. Wednesday, House Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman sent Gov. Henry McMaster a letter saying the General Assembly would have to oversee any possible sale of the state-owned utility.
Carter appeared to support that position during an exchange with State Senator Nikki Setzler, Co-Chair of the Nuclear Project Review Committee.
“With all due respect Mr. Chairman,” Carter said. “Santee Cooper is not authorized to sell Santee Cooper. We’re held to the General Assembly.”
According to the Associated Press, McMaster is negotiating with power companies to buy all or part of Santee Cooper. Lucas and Leatherman say no offers will be accepted until lawmakers review the value of Santee Cooper.
In its September report, Standard and Poor’s stated that a sale of Santee Cooper does not appear to be attainable.
The financial services company expects Santee Cooper to raise its base rates by a total of 13 percent over the next nine years. During that time span, the utility’s debt ratio is expected to fall to 69 percent.
The Santee Cooper Board of Directors plans to discuss its budget, debt, pension liability and other issues during a meeting Friday in Berkeley County.