Search Results for: vc summer

Took longer than we’d like….Bill passes to slash SCE&G rates

Anyone who know’s me (or has been following NathansNews since this post in 2010 ) knows I have little patience. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I declined to run for the SC Senate last month. With that in mind, like you, this past year has been a struggle to keep the focus on what’s best for the ratepayer in the aftermath of the VC Summer collapse last summer. This week, the House and Senate were able to agree and pass a law that not only has several fixes to what got us here; but also cuts our rates temporarily (and hopefully, permanently). That permanent decision is ultimately left to the Public Service Commission and, we suspect, the courts in the weeks and months ahead. In case you missed it this week…

From The State

…The new law, expected to spark a lawsuit from SCE&G, nearly would wipe out the monthly charges that the utility is continuing to charge its customers for the unfinished V.C. Summer reactors. The law also sends a message to the S.C. Public Service Commission, which sets utility rates, that it should side with electric customers when it decides, in December, who should pay off the billions of dollars left in construction debt — SCE&G’s customers, shareholders or both.

But lawmakers did not pass the new law easily.

It took nearly a year of State House hearings and legislative debates, plus a steady drip of news coverage unraveling the project’s failure and what lawmakers say was a cover-up of the Fairfield County project’s woes by SCE&G and its junior partner, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility.

Along the way, there were other key moments.

The new law was passed only after Gov. Henry McMaster pressured Santee Cooper, the project’s minority partner, to release a long-secret February 2016 study that — even after being scrubbed of some of its harshest criticisms — revealed major flaws in the project that were hidden from legislators, state regulators and the public.

Finally, lawmakers moved to slash SCE&G’s rates only after being assured by experts and studies that doing so would not force the utility into bankruptcy, as it had claimed.

“We worked through a process like none other I’ve been involved with in my time in the House,” House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said Friday. “I can’t remember a tougher issue.”…

Statement on Special Election for Open SC Senate Seat


Conservative Reformer Will Focus Efforts to Finish What He Started, “Clean Up” State House

(Chapin, SC) Today, State Representative Nathan Ballentine issued the following statement on speculation he might enter the race for the open State Senate seat in District 20:

“For more than a year while our community had no Senator in office, I have worked with other State Representatives in the Midlands to help continue constituent service and give those impacted a voice in State government. I understand better than most the frustration many of these individuals have with the corruption scandal and the effect it has taken on this state.

Recently, calls and emails encouraging me to run in this special election for Senate have increased. Not until our House campaign ended last Tuesday, did I give any attention to seeking another office.

However, I have decided to stay in the SC House and not run for the SC Senate at this time.

I ran for reelection to the State House this year because we need the best representation possible for our community – and state. My tenure and relationships in the House are important and can impact the lives of those who reside in this community.

The battle over energy choice has finally become front page news. In the aftermath of VC Summer’s Nuclear plant shutdown, I helped form the SC Energy Caucus to develop more energy options in South Carolina. I also helped lead the fight in the House to save over 3,000 Solar jobs in SC. There is much more to be done and I will continue to work and put our state on the correct course for a brighter future.

Whether reforming the SC Department of Transportation so we can finally get our state roads and bridges fixed or pushing for meaningful ethics reform including On The Record voting, we must continue to fix our state government to work for the people and not the politicians.

The recent corruption scandals involving members of both the House and Senate must end; and legislators must do more to make sure this never happens again.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have passed term limits for our House Speaker and now we must term limit our House Chairmen. The power held by so few can ultimately harm so many.

That is why I have decided to stay in the SC House and continue this fight for more reforms. I truly appreciate the kind words, encouragement and friendship others have shown me this last week. It has meant a great deal to both me and my family.

I am sure there will be many good qualified candidates that will announce in the coming days. Like many other voters, I will be looking forward to help elect a reform minded public servant who is willing to work with others to focus on people, not politics.”

Yard Signs!

The June 12th Republican Primary is just a month away!

With your continued help, we will be able to keep fighting for the issues that matter to this community.

I have fought to protect our schools by supporting more school resource officers in this district, I have fought to support more energy related jobs after the VC Summer Nuclear Plant shutdown. I am proud of my work as Co-Chair of the SC Energy Caucus and as a conservative leader on the House Ways and Means Committee.

With session ending yesterday, our campaign is gearing up and you’ll soon see yards signs in every neighborhood and many rural parts of our community! (Don’t worry, I’m cheap. I’ll come back after the June 12th election and pick the sign up for you. I don’t like seeing clutter around town.)

This week I have one favor to ask:

Will you please let me know I can place a sign in your yard? (Please send me your address – in case you’ve moved!) I will personally deliver your sign in the next two weeks and I will be happy to come back after the June 12th Republican primary and pick it up as well.

Whatever you can do to help is always greatly appreciated!

We have two, hard working opponents this time and; trust me, I will never take this House seat for granted. However, with your help, I am confident our conservative common sense agenda will not be defeated!

Thank you once again for all that you do to make this the best community to live in the state!

Nathan

You heard about the utilities’ first attack on solar. Do you know about their second?

Over the past several years, I’ve learned about about solar energy – ever since the General Assembly unanimously passed Act 236 back in 2014. With the failure of SCEG/Santee Cooper to successfully manage the VC Summer Project and get that completed, this past year I’ve spent more time looking into solutions. The utilities have fought me, my colleagues and simply put – YOU – every step of the way. They did it again last week! I wrote about it below and the piece was shared throughout the state.

Special to The State editorial board
Updated May 01, 2018 11:35 AM
COLUMBIA, SC

By now, you’ve probably heard that Duke Energy and SCE&G launched a surprise attack in the 11th hour against solar energy in the House and killed a pro-jobs, pro-customer solar bill.

What you might not have heard is that killing the solar bill was just one part of Duke and SCE&G’s multi-pronged offensive against clean energy.

On the same day that Duke Energy lobbyists were using underhanded tactics to defeat a bill that already had support of a bipartisan majority of House members, SCE&G’s lawyers were over at the Public Service Commission double-teaming us.

That day, the corporate utility lawyers actually argued with a straight face that there’s not enough sunshine in South Carolina in August to merit paying a fair price for solar. They also said that we don’t need any more energy generation sources in South Carolina, despite saying for 10 years that we needed a 2,200-megawatt nuclear power plant.

So what’s the truth? Do we have sunshine in South Carolina, or don’t we? Do we need 2,200 megawatts of energy, or don’t we?

With its laughable arguments about the lack of sunshine and energy needs, SCE&G convinced the Public Service Commission to set a rock-bottom price for solar power. And now that the commission has agreed with the utilities (as it usually does, because the utilities help get the commissioners elected), the rates will be too low for solar generation to get off the ground.

That’s right. In addition to having a monopoly on electrical service, Duke Energy and SCE&G get to set the price that their would-be competitors charge.

The more I dig into these energy issues and how many perks the utilities get, the more outraged I become. Our government should be working for the ratepayers and for the citizens of South Carolina — not for the utility monopolies. Unfortunately, when I look at what all has happened, I have to ask who is in charge.

Think about it. Duke Energy and SCE&G have a guaranteed monopoly on electrical service. Duke and SCE&G got a risk-free sweetheart deal to build nuclear power plants and put the exorbitant charges on the backs of ratepayers. Duke and SCE&G got a small group of House members to kill a solar bill that would have allowed more competition. Duke and SCE&G get to set the price of solar (the closest thing they have to competition) by simply asking the folks they help put on the PSC to set a rock-bottom price for solar.

Judging from their all-out offensive against solar, Duke Energy and SCE&G must be terrified that the growth of solar might cut into their profits.

Being terrified of losing profits is not a position Duke and SCE&G are used to occupying in South Carolina. They have been quite comfortable for decades, protected from competition of any kind by the mighty shield of their monopoly status and friendly regulators.

But now, the dual threat of cost-effective rooftop solar and solar farms clearly has the high-paid lobbyists, attorneys and CEOs shaking in their expensive suits.

The utilities have had the run of this state for too long, and look at we have to show for it: the highest power bills in the country, two nuclear-plant-sized holes in the ground in Fairfield County, more than 5,000 citizens out of work from the failed nuclear plant and now 3,000 solar workers with their jobs at risk.

The way I see it, we should be doing everything we can to make sure we grow solar. Not only will it create jobs, reduce customer bills and reduce our over-reliance on one energy source, but it will keep the utility bigwigs shaking in their suits and worried about profits.

There is still time to move solar forward this legislative session. There are still options. I implore my colleagues in the House and members of the Senate to act to advance solar energy growth in the waning days of session. This is what we were elected to do: Protect the interests of the people of South Carolina.

The People’s House – getting involved

I had the privilege today to speak on behalf of not only 3,000 SC residents working in the solar field; but also for the millions of others in our state who are tired of the control utilities have on our energy policies and options.

Today reminded me of earlier battles I’ve been honored to help lead: On The Record Voting , Insurance Coverage for Autistic Children to name a few. In all those instances, it’s been the people OUTSIDE THE CHAMBERS speaking up, getting involved, and helping pave the way for the legislators to have the courage to vote for change – for the little guy – and not the status quo. Today was a good day.

We all know how the utilities completely mismanaged (nicest word I can use) the VC Summer project and how millions are left paying for something that will never benefit them. Those same utilities are now fighting to keep our state from offering ways to lower our citizens’ power bills thru the use of solar energy. Their greed is astounding. Those same opponents are also jeopardizing another 3,000 jobs in our state if the SC General Assembly does not remove the artificial cap from that bill over 4 years ago – a miniscule 2% was all that we could get passed back then. Today, the utilities admit that the 2% cap will be reached in the months ahead or by the end of the year at the latest. If no action is taken, more jobs will be lost and one of the few options ratepayers have in our monopolistic market will be gone.

Four years ago , the General Assembly unanimously passed a bill paving the way for SC to quickly become a leader in solar energy growth. This week we have a chance to continue that growth – and do so with bipartisan support. As noted conservative Erick Erickson shared earlier this year , “Liberals have dominated the clean-energy conversation for a while. They define conservatives as being dirty polluters. Now, conservatives are not only claiming the high ground in the clean-energy fight but also proving the free market can sort out even this issue without overregulation and subsidization.”

I look forward to the debate later this week. I’m used to fighting uphill battles for the little-guy. I’m used to putting People above Politics. With the help of those workers today making their voice heard, we can make a difference for our state – a difference in keeping and growing jobs and in keeping our state moving forward with lower cost energy options for our ratepayers.

If you haven’t contacted your Representative yet; please do so. Let him/her know you oppose H.5045 (pro-utility bill filed March 1st and miraculously made it to House Floor 5 days later). Let them know you support H.4421!

Reforming the PURC – what is it and why the need to fix?


Video from October 2017, House Utility Rate Payer Protection Committee hearing.

From the Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Years before South Carolina was saddled with two failed nuclear reactors, SCANA and other utility companies hosted “appreciation dinners” for the lawmakers who pick the state’s seven utility regulators, The Post and Courier found.

The social affairs were held at top-end restaurants in cities across the country, with the state’s largest utilities lavishing some of the Legislature’s most influential lawmakers. All of these lawmakers were on the Public Utilities Review Committee. That little-known panel selects and oversees the commissioners who decide how much we pay for water, gas and electricity.

These same lawmakers would help choose the make-up of the state’s Public Service Commission, whose members earn more than $100,000 a year while deciding whether to grant utility requests for rate increases. That commission approved rate hike after rate hike tied to the unfinished $9 billion nuclear plant — nine increases over the course of the project.

***

Frankly, before the VC Summer fiasco, I had rarely (if ever) heard of “the PURC”: The Public Utilities Review Committee. But once we started diving into this issue last summer, I learned a lot. My colleagues did too. I could write pages on how messed up our regulated-monopolistic-energy-system is in the state. I could also write how the utilities single handedly stopped me from becoming Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. But for the sake of space, and your time, let’s just say that the utilities usually get what they want and one thing they don’t want is changes to the(ir) system.

During one of the many hearings over the past several months, my House colleagues discussed many issues with the PURC. The glaring issue was how much control these politicians have AND, how it doesn’t make sense for these individuals to receive gifts/contributions from the utilities they have direct control in regulating. Even with 2 of the 7 PURC members sitting beside me (see video), I successfully pushed for changes that level the playing field and have “normal people” (ie, not politicians) have the same number of seats at the table as the politicians do. The end result this past week in the house was passage of H4378 which – among other things – allows citizens equal say in who will decide important rate requests going forward and eliminated any campaign contributions, gifts, etc from utilities to this group that has oversight in the industry.

It’s always good when People, Not Politics win.

A Business Plan for 2018

This week marked the beginning of the 2nd regular session of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and 18 weeks to complete the work of the people. I am thankful for the trust you have given to me to represent you and our community in Columbia.
After hearing from our constituents over the past several months, many of us have discussed a Business Plan for 2018 focusing on a broad range of issues. Each item contained in the plan directly affects the lives of South Carolinians and will require serious debate.

For several years, we’ve seen results through debates on infrastructure improvement, workers’ compensation reform, property tax reduction, strengthening immigration laws, ethics reform and elimination of the Budget and Control Board, among many others. It’s my hope we will see results on this plan as well and Representative Huggins and I will keep you updated each week here through the Irmo News.

Ratepayer Protection Package
Based upon extensive study and review by the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee (formed after the VC Summer fallout), the legislative package proposed in our plan lowers current rates and prevents consumers from paying a single penny more for the costly failed project. Additionally, the bills modify existing law and put proposals in place that advocate for South Carolina ratepayers. Just this week, I was honored by my colleagues to be named a CoChair of the bipartisan SC Energy Caucus. We formed to not only focus on the ratepayers of our state but also to look at our state’s energy policy and consider alternatives and options that currently do not exist in the monopoly that is our energy providers.

Retirement System Reform Phase II
Last year, the House passed Phase I of retirement reform which placed the state retirement system back on a path toward solvency. When finalized by the Joint Committee on Pension Systems Review, the recommendations in Phase II will complement the achievements of Phase I by providing the most cost-effective retirement solutions that keep employee recruitment and retention competitive while also balancing long-term affordability for taxpayers. It remains important to note that these changes would only apply to future employees.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
The SC House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee recommends several new pieces of legislation and supports the passage of a series of bills filed in the first year (2017) of the session in addition to non-statutory recommendations. The comprehensive approach, among other things, limits the overprescribing of opioids and encourages additional prescriber education on addiction symptoms and safe prescribing practices, tracks opioid overdose antidote administrations, institutes licensing guidelines for addiction counselors, expands access to life-saving opioid treatment programs, reduces damaging stigmas, encourages additional research on opioid misuse prevention, and empowers community and faith-based solutions. Representative Huggins has been a leader on this issue for many years.

Education Reform
The legislation uses only the state portion of the child’s per-pupil funding to create an optional education savings account (ESA) directed by parents of students meeting certain eligibility qualifications. ESA funds may only be used by parents on an approved list of services and providers to customize their child’s education. ESA eligible student populations include: students with disabilities diagnosed by a physician or psychologist; students residing in a household eligible for free and reduced lunch; current and previous foster care students; and children of military families.

Entitlement Reform
The bill would require able-bodied adults to actively seek work in order to receive food stamp benefits. While currently administratively enforced by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, this bill would make the practice permanent law.

In the coming weeks, I will be asked to vote on each of these matters, and I welcome your feedback and input regarding these and other issues that are of interest to you. Please contact me through my website www.nathansnews.com or call me directly at home at 732-1861.

It’s an honor to again serve you and your family as your State Representative in Columbia!

$350,000 for Richland County parks goes to….

…City of Columbia, Parks and Rec Department
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 1 – $88,914.74
Colony/North Pointe Recreation Project Phase 2 – $ 274,376.15

Yes, you read that correctly. Richland County money that our county parks could use for safety and other improvements went to the City of Columbia – for a new park. For perspective the City already has 60 city parks and green spaces; 600 acres of city-maintained park land; 55 tennis courts; 16 city pools, spray pads and ponds; and 9 city-maintained fountains.

I discovered this after I stopped in my State House Office the first day back from a family vacation. (Yes, I kept in touch while away, returning constituents calls, working with colleagues, making a request of our Speaker and calling in from Montana to Keven Cohen’s show when the bombshell of VC Summer news broke. More on that tomorrow.)

When reviewing the paperwork from the “FY 2017-2018 PARD (Parks and Recreation Development Fund) Recurring Funds Allocation booklet” that SC PRT mails to House/Senate at the end of July, I came across the lines items mentioned above “Columbia, City of Parks and Rec. Dept”. I’ve discussed PARD funds before on this website. Bottom line, PARD funds are allocated each year to COUNTY DELEGATIONS to be used for parks and recreation.

Much has been written about the mess with the Richland County Recreation Commission for many years on my website ) and I was pleased to see a group of my colleagues finally come together and support the push for much needed change at the Commission. In addition, I was pleased to see them agree for my push a new way for the delegation appointed members (the old way is what helped empower the former Director and led to the many problems that have been finally reported).

We have finally restored some confidence and trust in that department by replacing the former commissioners with individuals chosen from more than 60 applicants – all given a chance to speak before the delegation.

Earlier this summer, after the delegation secretary forwarded an email PARD request to the entire delegation for the Bookert Heights Community (which I shared with a colleague I would support), I replied to the entire delegation:

“How have we decided to handle PARD going forward? There is (sic) LOTS available to impact our communities and I want us to all be able to help our areas. I remember Chairman Neal had us “divide the money evenly”. Recently, it seems we have individual requests coming in. I’m supportive one way or another; but want to be sure the delegation is aware of the enormous amount available and that we work together for each other. Thoughts?”

Our delegation chairman responded: “We have usually wanted to make sure each member has an opportunity to make this important resource available to their constituents where appropriate. We have not done it always the same way. I will reach it (sic) to staff today and reply to the group with an update on the fund.”

There was no update until today when I opened the report. Worse, the update showed me that not only did the request everyone received not get approved, 2 OTHER requests were approved that the entire delegation DID NOT RECEIVE.

I called PRT and learned that 52% of the weighted average of the delegation had signed a letter of support. While a majority is required, what should be EXPECTED is that the delegation discuss these matters together – in meetings – not continue to have individual House members and Senators work to garner support from just enough colleagues to get 50.01% and not let the entire delegation know of their request.

That is what happened with these requests. Under secrecy, a money grab was made. As if that was not enough, the money – GIVEN TO COUNTY DELEGATIONS – was handed over to the City of Columbia.

Shouldn’t the City pay for their own parks?

Shouldn’t these delegation decisions involving hundreds of thousands of dollar be vetted in public at delegation meetings?

Out here in our area, the answer to both those questions is Yes. Where you live, I’m pretty sure that answer is Yes, too.

Maybe the approved project for the City is worthy and would have been supported anyway. Maybe. But our delegation cannot continue to spend money in this manner. YOUR MONEY. County tax dollars going to City project…and not even debated our discussed by the entire delegation.

I’ll continue my push to make these reforms to the way Richland County delegation operates. We need more meetings. We need more discussion. We do not need rogue officials supporting City projects with money that our county parks can use.

SC House to probe failed SCANA, Santee Cooper nuclear deal

The shuttered nuclear plant in Jenkinsville. Courtesy of High Flyer via The State

From The State, Jamie Self:

The speaker of the S.C. House announced a committee Wednesday to study the failure of a Fairfield County nuclear project, adding it is possible he could call House lawmakers back to Columbia for a special session.

Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, named state Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, to lead the 18-member Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee.

From the Midlands, the committee includes state Reps. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland; Micah Caskey, R-Lexington; Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland; Russell Ott, D-Calhoun; James Smith, D-Richland; and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.

Lucas said the committee will study what went wrong with the joint SCANA-Santee Cooper nuclear project and determine a “viable plan that best serves the interests” of the state’s power customers.

“Based upon the multi-billion dollar disaster at V.C. Summer (Nuclear Station) and the nearly 6,000 workers who have lost their jobs, it is obvious that our current standard for energy development in South Carolina is flawed and in need of reform,” Lucas said. “Acting impulsively could potentially create greater turmoil for thousands of ratepayers who have spent their hard-earned paychecks on a service they will never receive.”

The state “has a responsibility to fully investigate this situation and ensure ratepayers do not experience this kind of failure again,” Lucas added.

To read more from The State and Jamie Self, click here .

Surf's up! Support for Open-Government swells

(I just posted on Twitter : “Budget Week – not as fun as Shark Week – but alot of bleeding.” I guess I just have the ocean on my mind.)

If there’s a bright side to having everyone together for Budget Cuts this week , it’s that it gives us a chance to see Representatives and Senators that have been calling and emailing this summer in support of common-sense reforms that will be pre-filed later this year.

What started as a battle seems to be moving towards a reality as everyone understands the needs for change. The question seems to have moved from “Will we actually do this next year?” to “How will we do this next year?”. By that, it seems many are eager for “real reform” but (as happens often in politics), will we see an attempt to water-down Representative Haley’s bill or even see something like a rules change that might not have the “teeth” like Haley’s bill?

As of today, there are roughly 30 members willing to go public by agreeing to sign as co-sponsors on the Spending Accountability Act (On-The-Record Voting) and the Campaign Disclosure Reform Bill .

That’s a good number of co-sponsors for any bill but; what’s even more exciting is that several colleagues have shared that they will go public AFTER the House has our re-organizational meeting in December.

As I’ve said all along, I’m hoping to report back in early January that these common-sense reforms have passed the House and that we are moving forward with restoring public trust and confidence in their elected officials while also allowing more sunshine on the process.

The grass-roots support from those across the state is working! Thank you to those that have contacted your elected officials and asked them to support these measures. Keep it up!