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South Carolina Public Service Authority

South Carolina Public Service Authority

1934 –

The South Carolina Public Service Authority was established by the General Assembly in 1934 with the power to provide for navigation and flood control on the Santee, Congaree, and Cooper Rivers; to generate electricity; to reclaim swampland; and to reforest the state’s watersheds. The prospect of using New Deal funds to build a hydroelectric generating station in the lowcountry excited many of that area’s powerful legislators. These men envisioned a small industrial empire in the lowcountry, supplied with Santee Cooper power. They created the Public Service Authority to negotiate with and receive funding from the federal government.

Recognizing that the Public Service Authority’s primary mission was to produce cheap electricity, privately owned power companies tried to block the construction of the massive Santee Cooper hydroelectric project in court. In what was just the first shot in a protracted battle between advocates of public power and those in favor of private power in South Carolina, they delayed the start of construction until 1939. During the early 1940s the Public Service Authority purchased several small power companies and began serving residential customers in Berkeley, Georgetown, and Horry Counties. Its attempt to buy the Lexington Water Power Company was blocked when the state Supreme Court ruled that it could not operate above the Congaree River. Courts, however, did side with the Public Service Authority’s attempts in the 1950s to sell power to the state’s electric cooperatives. A $7.5 million federal loan allowed the Central Electric Power Cooperative to build transmission lines between the Santee Cooper station and the cooperatives.

Relations between public and private power sources gradually became more amicable, and in 1973 the Public Service Authority purchased a one-third interest in South Carolina Electric and Gas’s Summer Nuclear Plant. The Territories Act of 1973 limits the areas in which the Public Service Authority can operate. It generates the electricity for fifteen of the state’s twenty electric cooperatives and some industrial customers. By 2001 Santee Cooper–generated power had reached all forty-six South Carolina counties. A board of eleven members appointed by the governor administers the Public Service Authority.

Edgar, Walter B. History of Santee Cooper, 1934–1984. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1984.

Pushing Back the Darkness: The Story of Santee Cooper. Moncks Corner, S.C.: Santee Cooper, 1998.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title South Carolina Public Service Authority
  • Coverage 1934 –
  • Author
  • Keywords primary mission was to produce cheap electricity, Territories Act of 1973 limits the areas in which the Public Service Authority can operate
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date July 22, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 24, 2022
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