The chairman of South Carolina’s state-owned power utility has stepped down, weeks after he sued to prevent Gov. Henry McMaster from removing him.
Santee Cooper board chairman Leighton Lord submitted his resignation letter to the Governor’s Office on Friday. The letter implies the two had recently met to discuss their disagreement, which stemmed from McMaster insisting Santee Cooper had not turned over all of the documents the governor requested on the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project’s expansion. Lord maintained the documents were never intentionally hidden and implied McMaster wanted him gone for supporting an opponent in next year’s election.
“Everyone at Santee Cooper, including myself, deeply regrets we had to make the decision to suspend construction of (the VC Summer reactors),” Lord’s letter stated. “It was one of the hardest decisions our Board has had to make.”
McMaster announced Dec. 8 he would give the chairman two weeks to step down or else be fired. Lord refused and filed legal action that essentially kept him in place until his appeal could be settled.
“I am confident everyone now understands that at no time did I, the Santee Cooper Board, or Santee Cooper staff withhold documents or information from (the Governor’s) office,” Lord stated. “Santee Cooper has nothing to hide, however we can always be open to improvements.”
McMaster’s office said the governor wants to focus on returning money to ratepayers who put more than $1 billion of their bills towards construction of the failed project. The governor has made it clear he wants to sell off Santee Cooper as a way to help pay back the project’s massive debt.
“There are many decisions to be made by state officials, potential purchasers of Santee Cooper and SCANA, investors, stockholders, ratepayers and our people,” he said in a statement after Lord’s resignation. “Without full and immediate disclosure of all the facts, the integrity of the decisions to be made is frustrated and the people suffer. This resignation, which I have accepted, is a positive step forward.”
Lord was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Nikki Haley in 2013. He has donated to the campaign of McMaster’s challenger, former Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Templeton, for next year’s Republican primary. Lord previously claimed the governor tried to fire him because of his political allegiance, which McMaster’s spokesman denied. Friday’s letter did not mention the accusation.