MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce is advocating for the state to sell Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper says it has more than $7 billion of debt. About $4 billion of that comes from a failed nuclear project. That has led some to believe the state should sell its electric company, but others don’t want the company to become private.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce is holding town hall meetings across the state to promote one idea: The sale of Santee Cooper. The SCSBCC held one meeting at the Chapin Library on Monday.

SCSBCC president and CEO Frank Knapp says residents shouldn’t have to pay off the billions in debt from the failed 2017 nuclear project.

“If we have an opportunity to take that burden off of the ratepayers, we believe we should do it,” said Knapp. “It’s simply a good business decision.”

Legislation in Columbia could allow the state to sell Santee Cooper.

Knapp says the state should do that, so it’s no longer responsible for the company’s roughly $7.2 billion of debt.

“They already increased rates by 5% because of this nuclear debt and they’ve already got a plan to raise them another 7% in less than two years,” Knapp said.

Santee Cooper says the average customer pays $5.68 per month towards paying off that debt.

While Santee Cooper cannot support or oppose its sale, a spokesperson says the company remains committed to not raising rates too much in 2021.

“Right now, we have the lowest rates in the state and by the projections, it seems that we will still have the lowest,” said Santee Cooper spokesperson Tracy Vreeland. “If not, they’ll be very competitive.”

The SCSBCC also says a private owner could shut down Santee Cooper’s coal plants and replace them with less polluting energy.

“The new generation gas plants and the renewables are cheaper and cleaner than burning that coal,” said Knapp.

Santee Cooper says it’s developing more clean energy options.

“We have been building solar farms,” Vreeland said. “We have one that just came online recently and we have another one actually planned at the airport here in Myrtle Beach.”

The SCSBCC will hold four more town hall meetings in the Midlands and the Upstate.