After botched projects, public utility exec to get $800G per year

Lonnie Carter is leaving Santee Cooper after a 35-year career following two failed company projects. But the retirement package he’ll receive seems like a gift from Santa Claus.

The chief executive of South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility will receive about $800,000 a year in retirement, even though two abandoned nuclear plant projects cost the state about $9 billion and cost about 5,000 employees their jobs.

Carter, 58, stepped down from Santee Cooper last week after the utility and SCE&G announced they were halting construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, South Carolina newspaper the State reported.

Carter worked for Santee Cooper for 35 years and was president and CEO for 13 years, the newspaper reported.

The State outlined that Carter will receive $344,572 a year for life from South Carolina’s State Retirement System and as much as $455,192 a year for 20 years from Santee Cooper’s executive retirement plan.

In addition, Carter has access to $858,577 in a separate Santee Cooper retirement account, the newspaper reported.

The former executive also will receive a half-year’s salary paid over six months during the first year of his retirement.

Gov. Henry McMaster criticized Carter’s retirement package.

“This golden parachute is an outrageous affront to the ratepayers left holding the bag in this $4 billion debacle,” McMaster said in a statement.

"This golden parachute is an outrageous affront to the ratepayers left holding the bag in this $4 billion debacle."

- South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster

McMaster is looking to sell Santee Cooper to a private utility, the Post and Courier reported.

Reasons cited for the failed nuclear projects included cost overruns, construction delays, the bankruptcy of project contractor Westinghouse and weak demand for energy after the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, utility customers in South Carolina may be forced to pay more than $2 billion in costs related to the failures of the two projects -– in addition to the $1.7 billion they have already paid, the State reported.