COLUMBIA, SC Santee Cooper’s former legal counsel will temporarily run the embattled state-owned utility in the aftermath of a nuclear fiasco that has focused attention on the power company.
The Santee Cooper board picked James E. Brogdon Jr. as interim president and chief executive officer to replace Lonnie Carter, who announced his retirement in late August after Santee Cooper quit work on a nearly decade long effort to build two nuclear plants. Santee Cooper and senior partner SCE&G spent about $9 billion on the project northwest of Columbia before walking away July 31.
Brogdon retired from Santee Cooper in 2014 as general counsel and executive vice president. The board also picked Marc R. Tye, the utility’s executive vice president of competitive markets and generation, to the position of chief operating officer.
Brogdon and Tye were among five candidates to replace Carter. Others included Steve Hamm, the former state Consumer Advocate, former Santee Cooper chief officer Graham Edwards and former Duke Energy official Ellen Ruff.
Brogdon takes over as Gov. Henry McMaster seeks to sell the public utility to a private, investor owned utility.
Board chairman Leighton Lord told The State on Thursday that he’s not sure when a permanent director would be picked because there is uncertainty about whether Santee Cooper will be sold. McMaster is in talks with at least four investor-owned utilities about buying Santee Cooper. Until that is resolved, it’s difficult to pick a permanent chief executive officer, Lord said.
In the interim, Brogdon is a good choice, Lord said.
“Jim is uniquely qualified to lead Santee Cooper during the coming months while our Board conducts a comprehensive search for a permanent president and CEO,” Lord said in statement after the meeting. “He understands the important role Santee Cooper plays as a public power utility serving South Carolina and our primary duties to provide low-cost, reliable electricity and water, provide excellent customer service and promote economic development.’’
Brogdon is a former circuit court judge. He joined Santee Cooper in 2005 and led the utility’s resolution of a flood litigation issue on the Santee River and worked to extend Santee Cooper’s long-term contract with Central Electric power. Central Electric receives power from Santee Cooper and distributes it to the state’s electric cooperatives.
“Jim is well known by our customers, our industry peers and partners, and other key stakeholders, and he knows our responsibilities to each,’’ Lord’s statement said.
Hamm told The State this week he thought the job would go to someone other than himself because he is an “outsider.’’ McMaster had asked Hamm if he was interested in the job.
Santee Cooper and partner SCE&G have been under fire since they chose to walk away from the nuclear expansion project this summer, after spending $9 billion and nearly a decade on the effort. The project shutdown left more than 5,000 people out of work and ratepayers upset that they had been collecdtively charged $2 billion for the work. The project was canceled after chief contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. The companies said the project had become too expensive to continue.
Three weeks after the July 31 shutdown announcement, Carter announced his retirement.
“We’re really trying to figure out what is the best way to transition to the next CEO,’’ Lord said of the search for a permanent director. “We are going to start a search as quickly as possible. We are cooperating with the governor and Legislature in the efforts to sell Santee Cooper, but we can’t get a full-time CEO until that has run its course.’’