Governor Henry McMaster today announced his Savannah River Site settlement recommendations calling on the General Assembly to invest South Carolina’s $525 million share of settlement money into transformative education, infrastructure, workforce, and economic development projects. The agreement follows a years-long legal battle between South Carolina and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over the removal and long-term storage of plutonium at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
“For over 70 years, SRS has contributed mightily to the economic prosperity of the State and to the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) – while the men and women working at SRS made even greater contributions to our nation’s national security – and played a key role in winning the Cold War,” wrote Governor McMaster. “It is my belief that the communities surrounding SRS should be the prime beneficiaries of these settlement funds.”
The governor continued: “These settlement funds present us with a once in a lifetime opportunity. By making big, bold, and transformative investments in the areas of education, infrastructure, workforce, and economic development, we can quite literally change the future of the region and the State.”
To ensure a transparent and accountable process, the governor requests the Joint Bond Review Committee and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority approve each project prior to the distribution of funds. To counter the costs of rising inflation Governor McMaster calls upon the General Assembly to pass the settlement funds in a stand-alone bill to allow for the funds to be appropriated immediately upon his approval. If the General Assembly adds the settlement funds to the FY 2022/23 General Appropriations Act the money will not be available until July 1, 2022.
These recommendations are provided following public meetings and intensive collaboration with local elected officials and stakeholders to ensure the needs of Aiken, Barnwell, and surrounding counties are met. The remaining dollars that are not allocated in the governor’s recommendations are to be placed in reserves to meet future needs.
In August of 2020, South Carolina entered into an agreement with DOE, which resulted in a $600 million payment from the federal government to the state. After attorney fees, $525 million of those funds are now available to be allocated by the General Assembly.