Search Results for: vc summer

Governor McMaster sends letter to General Assembly (re: VC Summer)

Today during the debate on the first of several bills addressing VC Summer, Governor sent House members and Senators this letter.

The latest on VC Summer “fix”…

S.C. lawmakers are ready to drop the hammer on SCE&G — with a flurry of bills aimed at blocking the utility from charging its 700,000 residential customers any more money for its failed nuclear project.

After a meeting Tuesday, the S.C. House now has six proposals ready for a floor vote when lawmakers return to Columbia Jan. 9.

And a special S.C. Senate committee Tuesday also moved forward with a similar package of proposals aimed at fixing problems that surfaced in July when SCE&G and state-owned Santee Cooper abandoned a nine-year, $9 billion effort to build two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.

Read more from The State by clicking here

VC Summer – Prudent?

Video above: Attorney, Scott Elliot, who testified Wednesday seems to agree the project was not prudent. The Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission disagreed with this obviously.

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This past Wednesday, the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee convened for the first of what is expected to be many meetings investigating the mismanagement of and decision to abandon the VC Summer Project.

As I have written earlier, there is much blame to pass around. These hearings are designed not to point blame but to instead how best to avoid another disaster like this again. And hopefully – to protect the ratepayers (and taxpayers) from continuing to pay for a big hole in the ground.

Rather than write for hours how we got here, I’ll provide links for all those who might be interested on the history of this debacle. Please see those links at the end of this post.

First, yes let me state up front that I did vote for the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) As I shared in my August Community Update, back in 2006-2007 finding new sources of reliable energy was a state priority not just for the utilities, but also the legislature as well. Staring at a potential billion dollar carbon-tax (and several other economic factors) our state was told we were on the verge of an energy crisis. We were warned of partial blackouts and waves of planned outages along the coast in the warmer months of the year. Finding new sources of clean energy was paramount. Legislators were told passing the BLRA was absolutely necessary to facilitate this new energy production in South Carolina. With almost unanimous support (only 6 officials out of 170 are on record voting “no”), the bill passed quickly.

Unfortunately, as we have now learned, the level of mismanagement and lack of oversight of the VC Summer nuclear project was off the charts. After 5 hours of State Senate committee testimony on Monday and 5 hours of State House committee testimony Wednesday, this became painfully obvious.

One thing stood out to me in particular this week. Inside the language of the BLRA, the word “prudent” (or variation of the word…imprudent, prudency, etc) appeared 33 times. Surely, someone at the PSC, or ORS, or even at the utilities would have noticed how important that word was since it appeared no less than 33 times in the bill.

Please take a minute to watch a few of the videos and read some of the articles I have included below for more detail on this.

Do you agree with Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and Public Service Commission (PSC) that the project was “prudent” from the start? Was it “prudent” to have so many cost overruns? Was it “prudent” to forgive the repeated delays of Westinghosue responsible for overall construction? Was it “prudent” for ORS and PSC to let those utilities continue spending money without any detailed construction schedule? Was it “prudent” for ORS and the PSC to approve 9 (yes, nine) rate hikes? Was any of this “prudent”???

No, it was not prudent. It was a gigantic failure of management and oversight all throughout this process.

The BLRA states “Where a plant is abandoned after a base load review order approving rate recovery has been issued, the capital costs and AFUDC related to the plant shall nonetheless be recoverable under this article provided that the utility shall bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the decision to abandon construction of the plant was prudent. Without limiting the effect of Section 58-33-275(A), recovery of capital costs and the utility’s cost of capital associated with them may be disallowed only to the extent that the failure by the utility to anticipate or avoid the allegedly imprudent costs, or to minimize the magnitude of the costs, was imprudent considering the information available at the time that the utility could have acted to avoid or minimize the costs. The commission shall order the amortization and recovery through rates of the investment in the abandoned plant as part of an order adjusting rates under this article.”

So, tell me…if this entire mess was deemed “prudent” every step of the way; how can the costs related to the plant be recoverable because NOW the decision of the utilities to abandon construction of the plant are prudent?

Much more to come. As always, I’ll keep you informed and I appreciate the insight you give me each and every day. I will make sure we get (your) questions answered and ultimately figure out how to fix this going forward.

* Legislators told law may block SCANA from charging V.C. Summer costs to customers
* House Speaker calls for resignation of utility watchdog; Gov. Henry McMaster disagrees

* Management shake-up? SC utility chief expected to leave Friday

Text here.

What questions do you want asked? VC Summer

As I shared earlier, when news broke that Santee Cooper and SCE&G were abandoning VC Summer, I was away on family vacation. I picked up the phone (from Montana) and spoke with our House Speaker. Asked him to panel a committee that could effectively look into this and set about to make REAL REFORMS and I’m grateful that he did just that – and named me as a member of the committee.

Our Speaker recognized the reforms and results I have championed and supported in order to affect real change for our state. I will continue this with my service on the committee.

The best way I’ve been able to get results for you is by listening to you and being your voice. That’s why I’m writing again today to ask for you help. What questions do you want me to ask on your behalf (and others) from the Office of Regulatory Staff and the South Carolina Public Service Commission?

This will be just the first of many meetings to come as we work through the complicated process of determining how best to protect ratepayers, our state, and taxpayers. Many families in our community were impacted and I am looking for every solution possible to help. Thank you for being a part of the solution!

2021 House Re-organization Session

The 1st Session of the 124th General Assembly will convene on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

For lots of information the entire General Assembly and more, visit our website www.scstatehouse.gov

This week the House had our organizational session where 124 members were sworn-in for their two year term, members elected officers, received committee assignments, selected seats in the chamber, and new members learn their new offices.

Some quick info for you:

The House has 124 members

*81 are Republicans and 43 are Democrats
*15 are freshmen
*34 are African American
*24 are female

3 new members made it to the coveted Ways and Means Committee: Chandra Dillard, Craig Cagnon, and Lee Hewitt
There is a new Judiciary Chairman: Chris Murphy

I again serve as one of only 2 Republicans on the Richland Delegation (15 Democrats, 2 Republicans) and have been in the same office suite since my first election. 320B Blatt Building. Please stop by anytime; but call ahead to schedule appointment as our days vary from week to week.

Anytime we are in chamber, feel free to send a note in via the pages located directly out front of the House Chamber. PLEASE list your mobile number and email incase we are in the middle of debate and I cannot make it out to visit with you!

My office phone is 803-734-2969
My home phone is 803-834-4613
My legislative aide is June Cornelius

Email is NathanBallentine@schouse.gov
Website: www.nathansnews.com

My committee is Ways and Means where I serve as a subcommittee chair. I also currently serve as Co-Chairman of the SC Energy Caucus (a bipartisan committee we formed after the VC Summer fiasco).

Ballentine named to Energy Panel


Last week the SC Department of Administration released their much-anticipated report of recommendations for the plans to purchase, reform or manage South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility – Santee Cooper. As one of the largest power providers in South Carolina, Santee Cooper directly serves more than 165,000 residential and commercial customers in Berkeley, Georgetown, and Horry counties and was initially formed as part of the President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930’s. Lately, Santee Cooper was responsible for half of the largest nuclear fiasco in our state’s history at VC Summer in Fairfield County. Over 5,000 jobs were lost and Santee Cooper was left with billions in debt.

House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement regarding the SC Dept. of Administration report on Santee Cooper,

“Today, the General Assembly begins the process of debating the ultimate disposition of Santee Cooper. The results of months of work, led by Director Marcia Adams and the Department of Administration, have been released to the General Assembly and the public for consideration.

The House will be led by the facts contained in this document and will push for the solution that is the most advantageous to the ratepayers and taxpayers of this state. The goal of the House is to reach the most fiscally prudent disposition for Santee Cooper and to protect those whose dollars are at stake in this decision. The House remains committed to maintaining a thorough, comprehensive and transparent process on this matter. All decisions will be made in a set of extensive public hearings and after ample debate at every level. The actions taken in the coming weeks and months are of significant consequence, and we will not take them lightly. I am hopeful we can determine the best outcome that will protect our citizens as well as the momentum of our economy.”

In response to the report, the following Ad-Hoc Committee was appointed – Ways and Means Committee Chairman G. Murrell Smith, Jr., (Chm.), Rep. J. Gary Simrill, Rep. Jackie Hayes, Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, Rep. Alan D. Clemmons, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, Rep. J. David Weeks, Rep. Bruce W. Bannister Rep. Joseph S. Daning.

“Even with our 30-day time constraint, and the budget process picking up in committee, I am confident this ad-hoc committee will work with diligence and vigilance,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Murrell Smith. “I look forward to leading the next step forward on this incredibly important issue.”

Representative Ballentine has experience building broad based policy coalitions including helping to form and lead the SC Energy Caucus just weeks after the VC Summer debacle in the summer of 2017. In a short time, Ballentine pulled together members from both parties and both legislative bodies to focus on solutions to our energy policy problems in the state. Rep. Ballentine strongly believes it is important for us to have more energy choices and competition.

“I am excited to be joining this important committee,” Rep. Ballentine said. “My goal has been and will continue to be whatever is in the best interest of the South Carolina taxpayer. We’ve started to give state ratepayers more choices, but frankly we need to do much more.”

A vote on Santee Cooper’s future in the SC legislature is expected before session ends this May.

Update: Blue Granite rate hike request

Happy to report that for the first time in years, the SC Dept of Consumer Affairs will help us ratepayers in this hearing. This opportunity to protect the ratepayers comes amid the fallout from VC Summer (SCE&G) and the SC General Assembly changing the laws to give us protection that we’ve not had in quite some time.

In addition, I’m happy to report that these public hearings will NOT BE DURING WORK HOURS! Rep Huggins and I joined a few members of the community to make the request to have hearings at a time more convenient to most people in the community.

The closet hearing for us will be THURSDAY, JANUARY 30TH, 6:00 PM, AT THE IRMO MUNICIPAL BUILDING ON WOODROW STREET. For more information see November story from WIS along with recent notification I received about these hearings below that!

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From WIS weeks ago

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs has petitioned to intervene in a request to raise utility rates.

The request was filed by the Blue Granite Water Company with the Public Service Commission.

The company serves dozens of neighborhoods in Richland, Lexington, and York counties.

If approved, the increase could raise customer’s rates up to 56%.

In the application for proposed increases, customer’s water rates could increase up to 45% and sewer rates up to 56%.

Rep. Nathan Ballentine recognized with Green Tie Award

Rep. Nathan Ballentine was born in Richland County, graduated from the University of South Carolina, and has worked, lived, and raised his family in the Irmo/Chapin area of the Midlands for almost three decades.

Rep. Ballentine has served his community in the SC House since 2005, first running as a CVSC- endorsed candidate focused on restoring funding to the South Carolina Conservation Bank. Over his 7 terms in the House, Ballentine has built a reputation as a conservative leader who relies on common-sense values to improve his community and its quality of life.

Over his House tenure, Ballentine has earned an 82% lifetime score on the CVSC Conservation Scorecard. He has consistently supported land protection efforts like the Conservation Bank and worked to advance a clean energy future for our state. Ballentine formerly served on the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee where he was a champion for increased energy competition and clean energy. He now sits on the influential Ways & Means Committee.

In the wake of the VC Summer failure, Ballentine helped to form the bipartisan South Carolina Energy Caucus and currently serves as one of its Co-Chairs. In this role, he facilitated multiple briefings in 2018 and 2019 on clean energy legislation and aided in the passage of the Energy Freedom Act. As both a cosponsor of the Energy Freedom Act and tireless champion for clean energy, Ballentine has worked with his fellow conservatives to build a strong, pro-solar majority in the South Carolina House. He quietly works behind the scenes in the Republican caucus to ensure that conservation continues to have strong conservative support, reminding his colleagues that conservation is a bipartisan South Carolina value.

To read more, click here.

The Weekly (and yearly) Rewind – May 24th

rewind-t3951k

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative in Columbia! This week we finished the first session of the 123rd General Assembly and I want to briefly touch on legislation that many of you have followed and asked me to focus on for our state.

To simplify things, I share that we had a focus on Education, Energy, and Economic Developement (while adding that I continued my push for more Ethics reforms).

During his State of the State address in January, Governor McMaster proclaimed this year to be the ‘Year of Education,’ and the House took that charge seriously by passing a transformative education bill aimed at fundamentally reforming the way we educate our children. The legislation we passed was the culmination of several years of work and meetings throughout our state with many stakeholders: our neediest school districts, district personnel, teachers and parents. While the bill sits in the Senate, I can share more below about other ways we focused on education in our state budget.

While not all of the bills that passed the House were passed by the Senate or signed by the Governor, here are a few of the major accomplishments from the House this session. As a reminder, this is the first year of a two-year session, so legislation that did not pass the Senate can be continued when we return next January.

The Education Budget

The 2019-2020 budget is built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend.

We devoted over $300 million for education in this year’s budget. Some highlights include:
$159 million to provide every teacher a pay raise
$15 million to increase base student cost
$68 million for workforce partnerships in technical schools
$10 million for school resource officers
$20 million for new textbooks
$19 million for new school buses
$2.2 million for mental health counselors
$44 million to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students
We funded pay raises for state employees, law enforcement, firefighters, and judges.
We funded education and treatment programs to combat the opioid crisis.
We devoted $25 million for disaster relief for farmers from crop loss and damage related to Hurricanes Michael and Florence.
We committed $40 million for new voting machines to ensure fair and secure elections.
We provided taxpayers a one-time $50 rebate from last year’s budget surplus.

More on Education

The House passed a comprehensive education reform bill that includes raising teacher pay, decreasing statewide testing, consolidating small school districts, and creating a committee that will monitor the education achievements from pre-K to post-graduation. The bill, crafted with input from Governor McMaster as well as teachers and educators from across the state, was sent to the Senate where parts of our bill (offered in smaller separate bills) have been moving forward. We are hopeful that when the Senate comes back in January, they move forward with passing the House bill.

Highlights from The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act:

· The act raises the minimum salary for starting teachers by almost 10%. All other teachers will receive an average raise of 4.8%.

· It eliminates 4 of the 6 state assessment tests to allow more time for classroom discussion.

· It adds a 30-minute duty free break for all teachers during the school day.

· It requires school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to consolidate with neighboring districts to share resources and save money.

· It increases funding for school mental health services, school resource officers, new school buses, and updated instructional materials.

Energy Solutions – Solar

The Energy Freedom Act passed the legislature unanimously and was signed by the Governor. The bill expands rooftop solar energy options by removing the existing 2% net-metering cap, allows solar customers to be compensated for the energy they produce and send back to the grid, and establishes a regulatory structure for future solar energy to compete with larger utility companies. Solar energy in our state is booming. In 2016 there were 1,160 cumulative installations; today the state is home to more than 18,000 solar systems and is expected to add 22,000 systems over the next five years. You may recall last session’s battles that I and others fought against the utility companies in our states. This bill would not have passed without support from the SC Energy Caucus which I co-founded and served as the first co-chairman with Rusell Ott (D-Calhoun). That bipartisan effort, along with a push from many conservative Republicans who stood with me, enabled this year’s bill to pass with ease in just a few months. As I shared on Facebook last week, nothing worthwhile comes easy – this bill and movement is a testament to that!

Energy Solutions – Santee Cooper Update

The legislature is moving forward with the process of deciding ultimately what to do with Santee Cooper in wake of the $9 billion debt accumulated from the failed VC Summer nuclear plant by the state-owned utility. Locally, our damage was mainly done by SEC&G. For the coops and others around the state, the next shoe will soon drop. Like we did during the SCE&G hearings, we must determine the best way to alleviate further damage to our ratepayers. The Department of Administration will seek binding offers from companies interested in purchasing Santee Cooper as well as offers from companies interested in managing Santee Cooper. In addition, Santee Cooper will be asked to submit its own plan on how they would improve if allowed to maintain ownership. The Department of Administration is charged with evaluating offers from these companies and bringing the best proposals to the General Assembly to consider by January 15, 2020.

Economic Development

The legislature passed a bill that will allow professional sports teams the same tax incentives as other large corporate companies who choose to bring their business and create jobs in the Palmetto State. The Panthers are moving their practice facilities and corporate offices to the Rock Hill area, which will officially bring the North Carolina NFL team into South Carolina’s economy. This move is expected to bring at least 5,700 jobs and more than $3 billion in economic development to South Carolina. As a realist, I’m not sure $3 billion will be the figure; but also as a realist, I know the state will receive far more benefit than the investment we are making. I’d like to remind everyone that opponents saying “we’re giving $115 million to a liberal billionaire” are being disingenuous. We are not giving your money or money we currently have to anyone. We are letting a business keep a portion of their tax dollars only after they commit to investing and contributing to the bottom line of our state revenues.

Ethics – no more Golden Parachutes

After years of having my bill sit in committee without a hearing from a former Chariman, I was able to finally have a hearing on a bill that would save taxpayers from paying for “Golden Parachutes” for officials convicted of public corruption. The new Chairman of the House Judiciary committee gave me a hearing and the subcommittee unanimously passed the bill that, simply stated, lets all public officials (not just House/Senate…we’re talking mayors, councilman, schoolboards, etc) know that if they are guilty of public corruption, they lose their state retirement and state health benefits. The bill didn’t make it to the Senate (yet) but will when we return in January.

One other important piece (that doesn’t begin with the letter E) is close to my heart. As the son of a combat veteran (Vietnam) as well as grandson of veterans, i’m pleased to share that the legislature passed (and the Governor signed into law) a bill to elevate the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs to a cabinet level agency. The Governor also signed into law a bill that will give in-state tuition for military personnel and their dependents regardless of the amount of time they have spent in that state. The House passed the Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act, which removes the present limit in relation to the income deduction of military retirees. It also allows military retirees at the age of 65 to deduct any military retirement income that is included in their taxable income. The Senate has yet to take up this bill. These bipartisan bills reflect South Carolina’s strong military tradition and show appreciation to our veterans.

I wish everyone to have a safe and enjoyayble summer. While Rep Huggins and I are out of session in Columbia until January, please know we will be visiting with you again and working on any state matters you need help with over the next several months.

Be sure to SAVE THE DATE (Wednesday, August 14th) for my “once every two years” COMMUNITY COOKOUT which will be held again in Chapin! As always, we will have state, local, and most likely federal officials present for you to interact with in an casual setting on the shores of Lake Murray! I’ll share more on my website at www.nathansnews.com. The event is FREE to the public thanks to the generosity of our Sponsors, Hosts, and Supporters! Hope to see you and your family there!

As your State Representative, I am honored to serve you in Columbia. Please feel free to contact me with any comments, issues, or concerns that you may have or tell me in person on August 14th!

The Weekly Rewind – March 29th

rewind-t3951k

Last week brought a big step forward in reducing income taxes in South Carolina!

Members of the House Tax Policy Review Committee have introduced legislation that would substantially change our state income tax by making it flatter and fairer. The bill calls for reducing the state income tax rate 35-percent from 7% to 4.5% over 5 years. As many know, our entire state tax system is an antiquated, hodgepodge of unfair taxing policy that awards some and punishes others. Our Tax Review Committee has been working for a couple of years to develop policies that would make SC’s tax structure fairer and stimulate our state’s economy. Just last week they heard from famed Reagan administration economist Arthur Laffer who encouraged us to lower tax rates resulting in growth in the economy.

Currently, SC has five income tax brackets, topping out rapidly at 7 percent. That’s high and not competitive with our neighboring states. The bill filed last week would eventually slash the tax rate from 7% to 4.5%. Who pays more and who pays less under the proposal would depend on how many tax credits and deductions people currently take and how they make their money. The state’s current tax policy gives preferences to older people and gives breaks on certain kinds of income, such as profits from stock trades. Under the proposal, all income and ages are treated equally. Itemized deductions and income tax credits would go away. This is obviously a major change and one I will continue to monitor and review to make sure the bill “really saves people money” instead of just moving funds around from one group to another.

While I’m talking about tax savings, last month the House passed our budget that provided a taxpayer rebate ($50) for every taxpayer in our state. Basically we had $1 billion in “extra money” this year and, after making all the priorities we wanted in the budget (teacher pay increases, tuition freezes, etc) many of us in the House felt we should return some of YOUR tax dollars back to you. This $50 uses about $100 million of that “extra money” (which is just 10%). When you look at the $1 billion in terms of $500 million recurring and $500 million non-recurring. This means we actually are proposing to return 20% of the non-recurring money to the taxpayers. Do you agree with this or would you rather government spend that money on something else? My fear is that the Senate will spend that money on pork projects and so the taxpayer won’t get it nor would some deserving group – teachers, retirees, military, state employees, etc. Please call or email me and let me know your preference!

Another major item last week was Santee Cooper and how to salvage another blow from the VC Summer fiasco. Momentum is building in both the House and Senate for the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. The House has issued a Joint Resolution authorizing the Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee which paves the way for the selling of Santee Cooper by continuing the committee process and evaluating bids before recommending a final offer to the General Assembly. And, just this week legislation was filed in the House that would increase transparency and accountability at Santee Cooper. I’ll keep you informed as those of you with MCEC as your electricity provider, will be interested in the outcome.

Lastly, we talked a lot about jobs last week. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would give the Carolina Panthers a tax breaks if it moves its headquarters and training facilities to Rock Hill, across the border from where they play in Charlotte. The reason legislation was needed is because current tax breaks in place for other businesses do not include “professional sports teams”. Simply put, if this was Panthers Manufacturing or some other service, the legislation would not be needed because it has already been in place for economic development situations similar to this. The bill does nothing if the Panthers do not move. If the Panthers do move, they would get a break on taxes – it would not be taking any current tax dollars and giving to them. As a reporter put it “i’ts not your dollars going to the Panthers, it’s the Panthers tax dollars going to the Panthers instead of state government.”

As always, let me know your thoughts on these topics or others by calling me at home (732-1861) or the State House Office (734-2969) or by emailing me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov.

Check your inbox for the APRIL COMMUNITY UPDATE email and be sure to check in regularly to www.nathansnews.com to stay more informed about what’s going on in Columbia and around our community!