The S.C. Public Service Authority is most often called Santee Cooper, for the two rivers connected by its man-made lakes
WHAT IT IS: South Carolina’s largest energy producer. State owned
REPUTATION: Known for cheap, dependable power. Prides itself in being a leader in economic development
EMPLOYEES: About 1,800
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OFFICES: Moncks Corner
CUSTOMERS: 1.8 million, including Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties, Charleston Air Force Base and 20 electric cooperatives and their 625,000 customers in each of the 46 counties
ANNUAL REVENUES: $1 billion-plus
TAXES PAID: Pays no state or local taxes but does pay about $15 million to the state each year under a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangement. Also pays almost $1.7 million in state fees annually — more than almost any other industry — for air pollution released.
OWNS: Four large coal-fired plants; proposing a new coal-fired plant and a nuclear plant. Invests billions in sophisticated computers, giant furnaces, pollution-control devices. Owns 1,273 rail cars that transport coal and leases 676 others. A car carries 116 tons of coal.
SWITCHING TO COAL: Founded in 1934 to generate electricity from water. Built its first coal plant in 1966 in Conway. It is the state’s second-largest air polluter, based on emissions fees it pays DHEC. SCE&G is first, having paid $2.3 million in fees in 2006. Santee Cooper paid $1.7 million. But Santee Cooper puts more carbon dioxide and mercury into the air than any other entity in the state.
OF NOTE: One of the most influential lobbies in the General Assembly. Its electric cooperatives and business customers stand ready to support its interests. Utility officials downplay its influence.
Why South Carolina owns a utility
Santee Cooper’s history is the stuff of legend.
In the 1930s, with a pledge of federal money, powerful S.C. leaders got the General Assembly to pass a law creating a state-owned utility. The goal? Electrify impoverished south-central South Carolina.
Other utilities sued, arguing Santee Cooper was illegal. They didn’t want competition.
In 1938, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Santee Cooper’s legality. In 1939, land-clearing began to create two enormous lakes, Marion and Moultrie, from vast swamplands. At the time, it was the largest earth-moving project in history.
More than 1,000 residents, mostly black, were moved from 177,000 acres. Some 12,500 of the state’s unemployed worked on the $64 million project. Electricity flowed in 1941, fueling defense industries and Charleston bases key to winning World War II.
SOURCE: Santee Cooper; state Department of Health and Environmental Control; USC historian Walter Edgar’s book "History of Santee Cooper, 1934-1984"