Gov. Henry McMaster has named himself to a nine-member committee that will meet this fall to study whether to sell Santee Cooper after the state-owned utility racked up $4 billion in construction debt before canceling a decadelong nuclear project.
Since the V.C. Summer project’s abandonment last July, the Richland Republican has championed the idea of selling Santee Cooper as a way to pay off its nuclear debt and protect the 2 million customers who get their power — either directly or indirectly — from the Moncks Corner-based power giant.
The move to appoint himself, confirmed by his office Wednesday, could stamp out speculation that McMaster’s advocacy of selling Santee Cooper was primarily an effort to appeal to GOP voters ahead of the June primary, which McMaster ultimately won.
According to multiple sources, the other eight appointees to the board are:
▪ Republican Sens. Tom Davis of Beaufort, Larry Grooms of Berkeley and Paul Campbell of Berkeley.
▪ Republican Reps. Peter McCoy of Charleston, Murrell Smith of Sumter and Russell Fry of Horry.
▪ Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg.
▪ Democratic Rep. Russell Ott of Calhoun.
While McMaster is expected to push the board to consider selling Santee Cooper, Grooms likely will push back. The Berkeley Republican, whose state Senate district includes Santee Cooper’s headquarters, is an ardent defender of the state-owned utility. Earlier this year, he gave a passionate speech defending Santee Cooper on the Senate floor.
Meanwhile, Hutto is employed as an attorney by South Carolina’s 20 electric cooperatives as part of their lawsuit against Santee Cooper. The co-ops have said they would be interested in buying or taking over parts of Santee Cooper if state lawmakers decide to sell the utility.
Campbell is a former member of Santee Cooper’s board.
The committee has not yet said when it will begin to meet.