Politics & Government

Sen. Graham advises SC Gov. McMaster to sell state-owned Santee Cooper ‘if he needs to’

Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference in Columbia on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference in Columbia on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. bmarchant@thestate.com

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he wants the federal government to do what it can to get construction started again at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.

And, the Upstate Republican added, state officials should be willing to shake up the state-owned Santee Cooper utility if that’s what it takes to get it done.

“I’m going to work with Gov. McMaster,” Graham told reporters. “I told him if he needs to sell Santee Cooper, to sell it.”

Graham made his comments during a press conference touting his proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, which he hopes to have the Senate vote on after senators return from their August recess.

Graham has said he worries the collapse of the V.C. Summer project could be the end of a U.S. “nuclear renaissance.”

Earlier this month, Santee Cooper and investor-owned SCE&G said they would drop plans to complete two new reactors in Fairfield, citing rising costs, construction delays and the bankruptcy of the project’s main contractor, Westinghouse.

The two reactors have been under construction for nine years. Even after the project was abandoned, S.C. power customers stand to pay higher electrical rates to repay the cost of construction costs already incurred.

Graham said he is pushing for the Senate to extend tax credits for nuclear projects. Already approved by the House, the tax credits would provide billions of dollars to the S.C. project and two Georgia reactors, still under construction.

“I don’t know what the federal government can do,” Graham said. However, he promised to work to find a new contractor that would be able to take over the V.C. Summer expansion and finish the project. “I don’t want to pay for a hole in the ground.”

Graham was in Columbia to talk about his own proposed health-care reform bill, which calls for turning federal health-care funding, as part of the Affordable Care Act, into block grants to the states. Graham’s proposal also would leave many ACA protections and related taxes in place.

Graham said adjustments to the funding formula could more than double the amount of federal health-care spending in South Carolina, to $1.5 billion from $694.2 million under the ACA.