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South Carolina hires Va. consulting firm to evaluate offers for Santee Cooper

A newly formed committee of the South Carolina General Assembly has agreed to hire a global consulting firm to study the sale of, and evaluate offers for, state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

The Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee on Oct. 17 voted unanimously to retain Fairfax, Va.-headquartered ICF International Inc. to review nonbinding bids for Santee Cooper, known legally as South Carolina Public Service Authority. The committee noted that the decision on whether to sell Santee Cooper rests with the full General Assembly.

Gov. Henry McMaster has publicly pursued the sale and privatization of Santee Cooper following the late July 2017 abandonment of the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion. McMaster has specifically identified Dominion Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corp. and Southern Co. as companies that his office has held talks with about buying Santee Cooper to pay off its debt and provide relief to customers.

In its 2017 annual report, Santee Cooper said that most of its 45% share of the more than $9 billion already spent on the abandoned nuclear project was "financed with borrowed funds."

Reports surfaced in March that Florida utility NextEra Energy Inc. was offering to eliminate $8 billion in debt and provide $200 million in customer refunds in its pitch for Santee Cooper. However, there has been no official offer on the table.