New Projects, Nuclear

Santee Cooper Chairman Resigns Under Pressure from South Carolina Governor

By Editors of Power Engineering

A nearly month-long effort by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster to fire Leighton Lord, chairman of state-owned Santee Cooper, ended last week with Lord’s voluntary resignation.

Lord is the fifth utility executive to resign in the wake of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear expansion, The State reported.

McMaster officially began his efforts to fire Lord in a December 8 letter to Lord that accused him of failing to cooperate with the governor’s office on the fallout of the Summer cancellation, which cost Santee Cooper and SCE&G $9 billion.

Specifically, McMaster accused the company of resisting the release of a February 2016 report that indicated critical problems with the Summer expansion, as well as earlier drafts of the report. The project was not abandoned until August 1, 2017.

A week after McMaster’s letter, Lord sued to block efforts to fire him and claimed the governor’s charges were false.

Lord’s resignation statements included thanks to McMaster for giving him time to “better explain our process for producing documents and materials requested by your office,” and expressed confidence everyone understands the company and its staff did not withhold information.

McMaster’s statement indicated doubts remained.

“These are critical months for our state’s economic and financial future. There are many decisions to be made by state officials, potential purchasers of Santee Cooper and SCANA, investors, stockholders, ratepayers and our people,” McMaster said. “Without full and immediate disclosure of all the facts, the integrity of the decisions to be made is frustrated and the people suffer.”

Lonnie Carter, former CEO of Santee Cooper, announced his retirement in August. SCANA chief executive Kevin Marsh and chief operating officer Stephen Byrne both retired December 31, while South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff director Dukes Scott will retire next month, telling The State the earlier-than-planned move was due to the stress of the Summer implosion.