A new class action lawsuit claims state-owned power utility Santee Cooper raised rates for an unused Pee Dee power plant.
WMBF–TV reports Conway attorney George Hearn filed paperwork for the lawsuit against Santee Cooper and the South Carolina Public Service Authority. The suit says the utility raised rates on over 160,000 retail customers and spent over $362 million on a dismantled coal power plant in the Pee Dee area that to this day remains unused.
The suit stems from two coal power plants which were initially approved by the Santee Cooper Board of Directors in May 2006 at the utility’s Pee Dee Energy Campus in Florence County.
The lawsuit claims that Santee Cooper bought the power plant from Chinese manufacturers in kit form — meaning it had to be assembled — before it could get all the required permits to build and run the plant. The suit also claims Santee Cooper issued $570 million in additional bonds in 2008 and 2009 to finance construction.
It claims the company then raised residential power rates by 2.56 cents per kilowatt hour without a formal vote by the board. After the project was suspended in 2009 and canceled a year later, the utility then instituted a 7 cents per-kilowatt hour rate in 2012. However, the lawsuit claims Santee Cooper actually charged customers 10 percent more than that.
The Chinese-manufactured kit is still stored at the Pee Dee property in Kingsburg. The lawsuit states Santee Cooper is spending about $13 million each year to maintain and secure the kit, plus another $3.5 million annually to keep the equipment in working condition.