VC Summer January 2018 across lake sunset

Unit 1 at the V.C. Summer nuclear reactor complex has been generating power since 1984, while the incomplete Units 2 and 3 stand unfinished since construction was abandoned in 2017.

“Should SC accept Dominion’s buyout of SCANA? Lawmakers are skeptical” — Jan. 18, The State

Well, going back to 2007 that would be the first time lawmakers have been skeptical about anything involving SCANA.

Actually, that date is only in reference to passage of the Base Load Review Act by those lawmakers — you know, the legislation that made the entire nuclear fiasco possible to begin with.

Conversely, if you’re talking about the S.C. Legislature’s general lack of skepticism about SCANA or anything it ever wanted, that would take us back to 1924 and the formation of the Broad River Power Company. The name was changed to South Carolina Electric & Gas in 1937, with the SCANA holding company created in 1984.

So, for nearly a century SCANA and its corporate ancestors had their way with the Legislature, culminating in the Base Load Review Act. But no more — now, by god, the Legislature is going to get tough.

It’s enough to make you laugh. And cry. And worry.

Specifically, we laugh at the hypocrisy of legislators, cry at their past poor decisions and worry about how those who got us into this mess now claim to know how to get us out of it.

They don’t.

In fact, nobody does. At least not with any degree of certainty. So great and so many are the variables for the corporate remnants of SCANA that it could be many years before things are sorted out, debts and judgments paid, refunds to ratepayers issued (we hope), assets sold and a new electric utility established in South Carolina under the ownership of … who knows.

Or, we can remove much of that uncertainty, receive those refunds, sharply reduce that debt obligation, sell those assets and make the best of the very bad situation the Legislature was the enabler of with its actions in 2007.

How? By telling those elected officials to stop preening and posturing, make no further mistakes that will harm us more than they already have, get out of the way and then get down on your knees and beg forgiveness if you were there and voted for the Base Load Review Act.

Instead, we get this from the Legislature. From The State: “S.C. lawmakers have heard what Dominion has to offer, and they think South Carolina can get a better deal.”

They don’t think that, they wish that. They hope that. They pray that.

But there is nothing to indicate it is so. The idea that other utilities are going to come forward if the Dominion deal is scrapped by the Legislature (and why the Legislature can scrap a deal between two private, stockholder-owned companies is bizarre to begin with in the supposed land of capitalism and free enterprise) is pure speculation.

And remember, any and all other utilities had the same opportunity as Dominion to propose a deal. None did.

So, apparently the theory among legislators (especially those who fashion themselves tough guys by calling the Dominion deal a “payday loan” or saying they don’t want to be “sharecroppers” for an out-of-state utility) is that some kind of white knight utility company with no financial constraints, no shareholder responsibility and no common sense is going to swoop down and pay the full price of SCANA’s mistakes. No limits. No conditions. No questions asked.

Yes, that’s probably what will happen.

That said (and as sarcastically as I could possibly say it), I’m certainly not against trying to get a little more out of Dominion in the deal. While the company has said the offer on the table is their best and final, my experience in both observing and making deals over the years is that there’s always some wiggle room.

But if you’re one of those — be that legislator or ratepayer — who simply wants to kill the Dominion deal, I would leave you with this thought:

Careful what you wish for.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.

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