Power for the people
Leaders disagree about state’s power needs
By Bill Davis, senior editorOCT. 19, 2012 – Depending to whom you talk, South Carolina's energy future will be a cornucopia of plenty with overly expensive electricity or a parched field filled with “rolling brown-outs” caused by a lack of enough power production capacity.
Sen. Paul Campbell (R-Goose Creek) this week defended comments he made earlier this month that two planned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville won’t generate enough electricity to provide the state with all the energy it will need in the coming years once the economy rights itself.
But observers like Robert Guild of the state’s Sierra Club hold that Campbell is missing the point on the inherent economic and environmental costs of nuclear power.
Sticking to the story
Three weeks ago, Campbell, admittedly no fan of “global warming rhetoric,” said that when those two reactors come online, they likely wouldn’t provide but a quarter of the likely growing power demands of the state. He said that the state could start seeing some real power-supply problems in as early as 15 years.
But according to state records, “request for proposals” for utilities providing that power in South Carolina only peers into the future for 10 years. But, current federal projections run until 2035. More.
Doing some “back of the envelope” math, Campbell said, calculator in hand, that assuming a relatively conservative state population growth of 2 percent a year, then the state could see as much as a 49-percent increase in power demands. Campbell said his calculations didn’t include likely demand escalators, like the likely proliferation of juice-hungry widescreen televisions and electric cars.
The senator said a mixture of every available power generation source, from “clean” coal to nuclear to renewable energy sources like solar and wind to natural gas, would be needed to make sure that the state’s economic recovery doesn’t stall.
Hungry, hungry hippo
Currently, according to federal figures, the state chewed through 1,048 trillion BTU’s of energy resources in 2010, from every kind of generation source. Only 14 percent of power generated in South Carolina is exported to other states.
Guild, the national delegate for the state’s Sierra Club, said Campbell’s former employer, Alcoa, proved that nuclear wasn’t the way to go, when it negotiated a quiet deal for cheaper electricity for its state facility, which provided by a natural gas power-generating plant.
Guild argued that by building the new reactors in Jenkinsville, the state would be purposely “hitching its wagon” to the wrong technology. He said cheaper forms of power generation, like natural gas, are easier to set up and break down, offer less maintenance and operation costs over the coming millennia, and provide cheaper up front and construction costs.
Campbell, on some of the points, agreed.
“If I was buying power right now, I’d be using as much natural gas (generated) power as I could,” said Campbell, who had been the regional president of the aluminum manufacturing giant. “But, that’s only because natural gas is cheap right now – I don’t think it’s going to remain that inexpensive in the future, even in five years.”
Campbell, who said he desperately wanted offshore wind farms to take root in South Carolina, said there are plenty of power generation options, including nuclear plants, to help ensure that more industry and manufacturing concerns will keep South Carolina as an option for expansion or relocation.
But Guild argued that with costs outstripping projections on the Jenkinsville reactors, the state would more likely become less competitive because of the likelihood that electricity will become more expensive as utilities have to pay down increased construction costs.
Both men agreed that the future solution for the state’s power problem would be in combining increasingly efficient power generation sources with efficiency and conservation efforts. Guild pointed out that South Carolina currently ranked a lowly 46th nationally in efficiency, according to a watchdog group .
Crystal ball: Getting conservationists and conservative politicians on the same side of the energy debate is a tough job. But recent revelations that the state’s utilities actively and legally opposed third-party groups expanding the use of solar energy collecting arrays ( show that much has to be done to get the state out of a 19th century, monopoly-dominated power generation paradigm.
Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Two on tap
- Education. The state’s Education Oversight Committee will meet Monday at 10 a.m. in 433 Blatt. Agenda.
- Finance. The Joint Bond Review Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. in 105 Gressette. Agenda.
Playing with fire?
If it comes to light that Gov. Nikki Haley encouraged or turned a blind eye to surrogate groups to donate heavily against powerful Senate incumbents [Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington), Jake Knotts (R-Lexington), Larry Martin (R-Pickens) and Wes Hayes (R-York)] and if any of those guys get reelected,then the governor’s agenda is dead for her final two years in office, according to Statehouse insiders.
Gov. Nikki Haley took her war on ethics – or the presumed lack thereof – up a notch this week when she introduced a blue ribbon commission to prepare an ethics reform plan for the legislature to consider in January.
Last month, Haley flew around South Carolina on the state plane (which she now wants to sell) to tout her five-point reform plan, which she said would clear up ethical questions for seated members of the legislature.
This week, she introduced her commission that, while not Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, showed solid bipartisanship. Not only did she include a former gubernatorial primary opponent, former Attorney General Henry McMaster, but a former Democratic Attorney General, Travis Medlock. The commission also included current USC J-School head Charles Bierbauer, CNN’s former senior Washington, D.C., correspondent.
Haley's timing is solid, as there are smaller, less formulated ethics reform commissions in the House and Senate. Additionally, ethics complaints have been voiced recently over the actions of House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) and S.C. Rep. Ted Vick (D-Horry County), not to mention the scandal-plagued resignation earlier in the year of now former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.
Look for a combined plan to emerge sometime in the next legislative session, as no one in either chamber will be facing reelection and can focus on an important, and complicated, issue like ethics.
OCT. 19, 2012 – South Carolina has lost Peatsy Hollings, perhaps the Palmetto State's best unelected ambassador of her generation.
Peatsy, wife of retired U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, served as the gold standard of a senator's wife. Not content to simply write thank you notes for social occasions, she was a full participant in Hollings' political career, his most trusted advisor. Peatsy "grounded" Fritz -- she kept him in touch with what people felt, what they dreamed. She did it with aplomb and a streak of humor that served well as she and her husband traveled the halls of power and backroads of South Carolina.
A campaign story from when Hollings ran for president in 1984 serves as an example. Seems the senator had an appearance on a national morning news show. As people on the East Coast were starting to rise, the phone rang in the wee hours in the Hollings' California hotel room. When Peatsy answered, the caller asked, "Umm, is Senator Hollings there?" Without missing a beat, Peatsy replied as if talking to the senator, "Honey, your name Hollings?"
Born Rita Louise Liddy on the last day of 1935, Peatsy became a teacher. Often at events in Washington or Charleston, former students would approach "Miss Liddy," grasp her hand and tell her how much she meant to them and how she made civics come alive during classes at St. Andrews High School.
In the late 1960s, then an aide to Hollings, she helped research and edit what became a groundbreaking policy book by Hollings, "The Case Against Hunger." That book helped change the debate about need for maternal feeding in the country and led to the creation of the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, supplemental nutrition program for low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women. It has provided help for millions of American children and gave them the fuel to allow their brains to develop as babies. Today, WIC serves 53 percent of all infants born today in the United States.
Married to Hollings in 1971, Peatsy helped with numerous charitable causes, such as the American Heart Association, March of Dimes and American Cancer Society. From 1990 to 2000, she co-chaired an annual gala salute at Ford's Theatre for the President and First Lady. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to a four-year position on the National Advisory Mental Health Council, which she tackled with enthusiasm and passion.
Anne McCracken, a former Hollings press secretary, recalls how Peatsy charmed senators and presidents with her outgoing ease. When a new president and first lady came over for dinner in 1993, “the Secret Service asked her what catering company would be preparing the food so they could get sealed dishes for the President and Mrs. Clinton. As Peatsy continued to stir a pot, she answered with a sly smile, 'You're looking at the caterer.'”
Columbia public relations executive Bud Ferillo remembers how Peatsy wrote him a letter every week while he was serving in Vietnam in the late 1960s. “She was the mother hen to many of my generation, teaching history and sharing her love of politics.”
In fact, public education was always Peatsy's chief passion. As related in a 2004 story on how Peatsy redefined the role of being a senator's wife, she didn't hold back when asked what issue she would trumpet if Hollings became president: "Public education. I am definitely against a tax exemption for private schools. Private schools are one reason people are unequal -- they don't take everybody and most people can't afford them. Public schools should be the main concern of this nation because they teach different types of people how to live with each other. Certainly the cutbacks in education are criminal."
Soon after Hollings retired from the Senate in January 2005, Peatsy started a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. For years, she'd be with him in an office on Calhoun Street at the Medical University, where the senator continues to champion funding for cancer research. In later years, she enjoyed drives through the countryside.
Rita Louise Liddy Hollings, 1935-2012. You enriched the lives of South Carolinians. We'll miss you. Rest in peace.
Andy Brack, a former press secretary to Sen. Hollings, is publisher of Statehouse Report. You can reach Brack at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus
The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus. Organized almost 25 years ago, the Caucus has played an important role in many of the historic issues facing our state. As a vibrant minority party in the Senate, its role is to represent our constituents and present viable alternatives on critical issues. The SC Senate Democratic Caucus remains a unique place for this to occur in our policy process. Learn more about the Caucus at: www.scsenatedems.org.
More work to do for better voting
By Victoria Middleton
Special to Statehouse Report
OCT. 19, 2012 -- It is a good thing that South Carolina voters will not face the unnecessary hurdle of producing government-issued photo IDs on November 6 of this year, but our work to protect voting rights can’t end with this. While some traditions are worth holding onto, customs that impede our right to vote – a right essential to democracy – should be relegated to history.
Our politicians should acknowledge (as Election Commission professionals do) that it is burdensome to vote only on the first Tuesday of November while our friends in over 30 states nationwide and other advanced countries have far more flexible options for early voting.
We should consider allowing Election Day registration at the polls, like some other states, to accommodate recent arrivals in South Carolina and voters whose addresses have recently changed. Certainly we can take more proactive steps to restore voting rights to the many voters in our state who have been disfranchised by over-incarceration in the last 40 years. And why doesn’t ‘one person, one vote’ translate to a better, less elitist system than the ‘winner takes all’ of the Electoral College?
Instead of investing in any or all of these reforms, the state spent $3 million, by its own estimate, to defend a Voter ID law that was unfair to a significant group of South Carolina voters – as the state’s own data showed -- who lacked government-issued photo IDs. The judges’ October 12 opinion indicated that the law “certainly would have been more restrictive” if the Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC had not intervened. They halted implementation of the law in its original form and expanded the interpretation of the “reasonable impediments” a voter might face to obtaining a photo ID.
Certainly the Voter ID lawsuit demonstrated not only that there was no evidence of voter fraud in our state, but that the Voting Rights Act remains important. South Carolina was required by Section V of that Act (which Congress reauthorized most recently in 2006 by an overwhelming margin in a bipartisan vote) to get approval of this change to our voting laws. If not for this, the Voter ID law might have had a greater discriminatory impact on many voters in our state. We are glad that, for the present, it will not.
Victoria Middleton is executive director ACLU South Carolina office in Charleston.
Enjoyed article on Haley's options
To Statehouse Report:
I must say that your most recent article, “Haley Can't Ignore Her Options,” was quite well done! I was rather critical of an article you wrote many months ago and you seemed sure that I felt better, having gotten it off my chest.
I am always amused at the left wing of our country and I always look forward to getting a copy of "West Of"' when I visit Charleston to read your column.
-- Harry Waddington, Dataw Island, S.C.
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Charleston, Vick, S.C. State
Charleston. Travel giant Conde Nast named the Palmetto State coastal city as its top tourist destination … in the world. More.
Vick. Embattled Chesterfield Democratic state Rep. Ted Vick has been accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions from the state Republican Party, which is in the hole several hundred thousand dollars itself. Vick was arrested earlier this year on DUI and gun possession charges in downtown Columbia with a recently graduated coed in the car, leading him to drop out of the race for the state’s newly-created 7th Congressional District seat. More.
Joblessness. The state’s unemployment office is going to layoff 136 of its own workers as federal stimulus money dries up. More.
S.C. State. Great: two different people claim they are the real chair of the school’s trustee board. Just what this school needed – more controversy. More.