Archive for category News

Total Eclipse, Columbia

View of total solar eclipse in Columbia, S.C., on August 21, 2017. Photo by Alexandria Cone and Denise McGill

View of total solar eclipse in Columbia, S.C., on August 21, 2017. Photo by Alexandria Cone and Denise McGill

Total Eclipse, Columbia

Early view of partial eclipse Columbia, S.C., on August 21, 2017. Image taken through a long lens with a solar fllter. Photo by Alexandria Cone and Denise McGill

Early view of partial eclipse Columbia, S.C., on August 21, 2017. Image taken through a long lens with a solar filter. Photo by Alexandria Cone and Denise McGill.

Total Eclipse, Columbia

USC student volunteer Leticia Pena shows onlookers how to view the eclipse through a Sun Spotter device. It was one of many stations set up throughout Columbia, S.C., for viewing the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 Photo by Denise McGill

USC student volunteer Leticia Pena shows onlookers how to view the eclipse through a Sun Spotter device. It was one of many stations set up throughout Columbia, S.C., for viewing the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Photo by Denise McGill

You could be paying twice for V.C. Summer

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 18, 2007

In the wake of Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoning construction of two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site in Jenkinsville, there’s been a lot of media discussion about who’s to blame and who will pay.

The fear for many is that the electricity customers of the two providers will keep paying now for a project that may never be completed. And there’s a building sentiment that state government is to blame, at least for having failed to exercise adequate oversight of the partners’ activities, since Santee Cooper is owned by the state and SCE&G is regulated by it.

Less noticed has been the situation of what appears to be SCE&G’s biggest customer and ratepayer: the state of South Carolina.

Read the rest of this entry »

Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry, talks about the efforts of a Senate Education subcommittee

Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry, talks about the efforts of a Senate Education subcommittee, which is examining out-of-state tuition abatements at S.C. public colleges. View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWY0LEjqfMQ

Where was the utilities committee?

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.com

August 11, 2017

Earlier this week the House speaker and the Senate president pro tem each created special legislative committees in response to the abandonment of the V.C. Summer nuclear project.

Speaker Jay Lucas said in his press release that “The only responsible path forward is to comprehensively study the issue,” and that “Every possible option must be considered and remains on the table.” He particularly encouraged the committee to review the Base Load Review Act and examine the state Public Service Commission’s authority.

Leatherman’s letter announcing his committee used similar language, adding that the Senate committee has the authority to review “all aspects of this project and the chain of decisions made by the management of SCE&G and Santee Cooper as well as the governmental actions of the Public Service Commission and the Office of Regulatory Staff.”

That sounds well and good, doesn’t it? After all, lawmakers created the system and passed the Base Load Review Act, so they should take responsibility for fixing it, right?

Except… there’s a problem. One government board is missing from Leatherman’s list of things to look into – and it may bear the greatest culpability of all: the Public Utilities Review Committee (PURC).

Read the rest of this entry »

Senator Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, talks about his appointment to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Project Review Committee

Senator Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, talks about his appointment to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Project Review Committee, particularly what the group will review and what are the policy decisions that will be discussed.  View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R8F1KQG12c

Alarms on nukes fiasco sounded years ago

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 9, 2017

When Santee Cooper and SCE&G pulled the plug on their shared project to build two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville at the beginning of last week, it was a “wow” moment and rightly so. For one thing, several thousand employees were thrown out of work with no warning.

Yet with the benefit of hindsight, this fiasco was like a freight train that had been steadily approaching for years, a speck in the distance, a slightly bigger speck in the distance, slightly bigger… “is that a train?” — and then, one day it arrived all hiss and clang, right on time.

“No one anticipated what kind of a catastrophe this would turn into,” Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler told the Associated Press late last week.

Keep in mind that Setzler said this despite his having co-sponsored the 2007 Base Load Review Act, the law that positioned SCE&G parent company SCANA to risk so much on the project, where it was the majority partner, while insulating itself from loss and enriching its shareholders.

That’s what economists call a moral hazard. And it shouldn’t have been hard to see before last week that it posed at least a potential problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

South Carolinians fall short on education, finance, wealth

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 7, 2017

South Carolina businesses are much more likely to be white-owned than businesses on average in the U.S., and less likely to be owned by women. Does that affect its prosperity?

At the same time, businesses owned by men and by whites are more valuable than minority and female-owned businesses, and the difference in value in South Carolina is even greater than the average national difference.

A greater percentage of the South Carolina workforce toils in low-wage jobs, 30.4 percent, than the national average of 24.2 percent, ranking South Carolina 42nd from the best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Adding insult to injury, the average annual pay for a South Carolina worker is $46,411, well below the national average of $52,942 — and those figures are adjusted for cost of living.

These data are some of the findings which led the non-partisan group Prosperity Now, a D.C.-based nonpartisan nonprofit that promotes “household financial health,”to give the state an “F’ on its recent annual report card, in its category for Business & Jobs. For South Carolina, it argues, this all means prosperity later if ever.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nowhere to run

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.org

August 4, 2017

When the multi-billion V.C. Summer nuclear reactor project was scrapped this week, the question on everyone’s mind was “Who’s going to pick up the tab for this?”

SCANA, SCE&G’s parent corporation, wasted no time in asking the Public Service Commission’s permission to pass the bills along to its ratepayers in a six-decade plan.

No one but SCE&G seems thrilled with that idea. All of its customers feel the sting of potentially having to pay for a project that doesn’t exist anymore – especially after shouldering nine rate increases over the past nine years to fund it to begin with.

In a legislative press conference on Wednesday lawmakers said that all options to fix the broken system that gave rise to this situation were on the table, except for making the ratepayers absorb the loss.

That sounds a bit overly optimistic to anyone familiar with legislative politics, but the fact remains that it’s unjust to make the customers pay for the investors’ bad decisions.

Read the rest of this entry »

So your reactors are kaput. Now what?

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 3, 2017

The announcement earlier this week that SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper were pulling the plug on construction of two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville has left questions that keep multiplying.

In the run-up to the decision, one factor driving it was that the partly-completed, multi-billion-dollar project would provide more power than electricity consumers in South Carolina were likely to want.

Canceling the project, though, could lead to a shortfall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Who pays for failed reactors?

Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 3, 2017

Last week, as the planned construction of two nuclear reactors in South Carolina was enveloped in doubt following the bankruptcy of their contractor, Westinghouse, news came of another planned rate-hike by one of the project’s two partners, the government-owned utility Santee Cooper.

Under the proposal, the Santee Cooper board would vote in December to raise rates for its residential electricity customers by about 10 percent over two years, in part to cover “costs associated with nuclear construction.” And with the hike, South Carolina would be poised to have the highest electricity costs in the country.

That was before the announcement that Santee Cooper and its partner in the reactors, SCE&G, would abandon the project.

Read the rest of this entry »

Senator Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, talks about criminal justice reform

Senator Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, talks about criminal justice reform, which she says is one of her legislative focal points for the upcoming session in 2018. Bright Matthews, who represents District 45, is a member of the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee.  View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYhOXTsEmVU

Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry, discusses the moped bill

Senator Greg Hembree, R-Horry, discusses H. 3247, often called the moped bill. The bill included multiple provisions for moped drivers, such as new registration and licensing requirements, as well as additional operating and safety guidelines. View the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwyhtyZaGZQ

Picking produce — and winners

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.org

July 27, 2017

Tax credits can be some of the worst policies a government can pass.

Taxes, as a rule, should be broad-based (everybody pays them) and low-rate (nobody pays much). Tax credits usually violate that principle – after all, tax cuts are different from tax favors. The former lowers the overall burden for everyone, and the latter make exemptions for favored businesses, individuals, or sectors at the expense of everyone else.

And of course, targeted tax credits are often used for economic development – or so the claim goes.

Take S.404, which passed the Senate this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Enough with the parting gifts

By Abby Nugent for TheNerve.org

July 24, 2017

According to a contract obtained by the Post and Courier, the former head of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Catherine Templeton, accepted a contract with the agency just one day after she left her position in January of 2015. As director, she was paid $13,500 a month. After signing her no-bid consulting contract, she was paid $17,300 a month—a 28 percent increase.

Templeton’s predecessor, Earl Hunter, did the same sort of consulting at a rate of $15,000 per month for three months after he left DHEC, and current director Catherine Heigel (set to leave her position on August 4), was offered the same position, but announced yesterday to The State that she will not accept it amid this controversy.

One might think that, after agency heads leave their positions as government employees, their days of receiving taxpayer-funded salaries are over. This has not been the case. And it raises the question, why was the consultant paid more than the agency head, even after having received a pay raise of thousands of dollars shortly before leaving her post at DHEC?

Read the rest of this entry »

A huge hike to cover troubled nuclear reactors

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 24, 2017

Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, is notifying customers that it wants to raise its rates by more than 9 percent over the next several years, in part to cover “costs associated with nuclear construction.”

The reference is to its share of the $11 billion price to build two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, 25 miles northwest of Columbia. Since its chief contractor, Westinghouse, went bankrupt, the utility and its partner, SCE&G, have been trying to determine the partly-built project’s fate.

Meanwhile, it wants to recoup costs from its customers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why is electricity so expensive in South Carolina?

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 20, 2017

In a ranking of states by total energy costs, South Carolina is solidly in the middle, at 24th most expensive.

When the costs of electricity, natural gas, motor fuel, and home heating oil are averaged and combined, state residents spent $278 per month.

That’s much better than the most expensive state, Connecticut, at $380, and much worse than the least expensive, Washington, at $226. (The District of Columbia is even lower, at $219.)

More curious is the ranking of states just on monthly retail electricity costs.

To get that figure, the authors of a study released last week by the personal-finance firm WalletHub took data from the Census and from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Then they multiplied the average monthly consumption of electricity per housing unit — in South Carolina, that’s 1,380 kilowatt hours — by the average retail price for electricity, which here is $0.1257 per kilowatt hour.

The result: South Carolina is the highest in the nation, at $173.47.

Read the rest of this entry »

For commissioner, governor turns to chamber

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 14, 2017

More than two months ago, the office of Governor Henry McMaster was lining up a permanent replacement for former state Department of Transportation Commissioner Mike Wooten.

When it did, it was guided solely by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, according to documents obtained through an open-records request.

Wooten served a single, four-year term, representing the Seventh Congressional District, which encompasses Myrtle Beach. His tenure was controversial in some quarters, owing to allegations that he had conflicts of interest — he also runs DDC Engineers, a Myrtle Beach firm that does business with state and local government.

Wooten’s commission expired February 15. The law allowed him to sit on the DOT board for another six months. The governor, meanwhile, had the choice of nominating him for another term or naming someone new, in either case subject to the legislature’s ultimate approval.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad news on sales tax

By Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

July 14, 2017

If you shop locally and wonder where the money goes, the Tax Foundation has an explanation. South Carolinians pay the 17th-highest sales taxes in the nation, according to a new midyear report from the nonpartisan think tank.

The ranking, arrived at by combining state and a population-weighted average of local sales taxes, is another rebuke to public officials who tout the Palmetto State as a low-tax environment.

The highest rate is Louisiana, at 10.02 percent. The lowest non-zero rate is Alaska, at 1.76 percent. South Carolina comes in at 7.37 percent, just lower than Colorado (7.5 percent) and higher than Minnesota (7.29 percent). Delaware, Oregon, Montana, and New Hampshire have no sales taxes.

Read the rest of this entry »