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Santee Cooper CEO to receive $800,000 in annual retirement pay

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Lonnie Carter (copy)

Lonnie Carter, the CEO of Santee Cooper, announced his planned retirement from the utility company. 

Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter, who announced his retirement weeks after the utility pulled the plug on a failed and costly nuclear plant expansion, will get roughly $800,000 a year in retirement benefits, according to documents the Moncks Corner utility released Friday.

The biggest chunk of Carter's estimated retirement pay will be a $455,191.83 annual payout from Santee Cooper's pension plan for executives.

Carter, 58, will get that amount for the next 20 years.

Carter also will receive $344,571 per year from the state's retirement system.

He has other sources of retirement income as well. He can draw on a defined contribution plan — similar to a 401(k) account — that totaled $858,571 as of June 30.

In addition to those benefits, Carter's contract calls for him to receive half of his annual salary of $540,929 to be paid over a 12-month period after he retires.

Carter announced his retirement Aug. 25 but will stay with the state-owned electric utility until a new chief executive is hired. Since his retirement isn't official yet, his benefits could change slightly when final calculations are done.

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The retirement announcement came just weeks after Santee Cooper voted to stop construction on the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County, about 30 miles north of Columbia. That decision set off a political firestorm as officials alternatively seek to revive the project and assign blame for its financially catastrophic demise.

Santee Cooper and its partner in the project, S.C. Electric & Gas Co., spent some $9 billion before ditching the effort in late July after months of analysis found that it would cost at least $21 billion to complete — roughly double initial estimates.

Customers of the utilities will foot the bill for the project's failure.

Gov. Henry McMaster, who is trying to sell Santee Cooper to a private utility to revive V.C. Summer, termed Carter's retirement pay a "golden parachute." He called it "an affront to the ratepayers left holding the bag" in the nuclear project's demise.

Carter was not available Friday, and Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore declined to comment on the governor's statement.

Carter started working in the energy business in college as a lineman for Edisto Electric Cooperative, and his career managing utilities has revolved around Santee Cooper, where he started in 1982 after graduating from The Citadel.

He began in the controller’s office of the state-run power company and eventually became an expert in forecasting electricity needs and rates, rising to the role of senior vice president of corporate planning and bulk power. Carter took the utility's top job in 2004.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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