NextEra’s Feud With State on Lobbying Data Imperils Utility Deal

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A South Carolina lawmaker has threatened to block any efforts by NextEra Energy Inc. to buy state-owned utility Santee Cooper unless the clean-energy giant turns over lobbying and other information.

“Without answers, I’ll do everything I can to ensure that Santee Cooper is not sold to NextEra,” said state Senator Richard A. Harpootlian, a Democrat who sits on a subcommittee charged with reviewing a potential sale.

The Republican-controlled state legislature, which last year rejected NextEra’s bid to acquire Santee Cooper, may reopen the bidding process this year. In the meantime, lawmakers have asked NextEra to turn over communication between its employees, lobbyists and lawmakers and government officials, as well as any payments or campaign contributions made to lawmakers, according to the Associated Press.

In a three-page response dated Jan. 15, Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra declined to provide the information, saying that hundreds of pages about the company and its offer “were made fully available” to lawmakers during the bidding process last year. NextEra also reiterated its interest in buying Santee Cooper, saying its proposal “would be one of the largest in South Carolina history,” according to a copy of the letter seen by Bloomberg. A NextEra representative declined to comment.

Harpootlian called the letter “unresponsive and petulant.”

Santee Cooper provides power to about two million people in South Carolina. Last year the state’s Department of Administration recommended that if lawmakers want to sell the utility -- which is saddled with debt from a failed nuclear plant expansion -- they should go with the offer from NextEra.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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