As part of its ongoing effort to secure competitive pricing and best service practices for its members, Marlboro Electric Cooperative filed a lawsuit against the Central Electric Power Cooperative in South Carolina’s fifth judicial circuit on Friday. The lawsuit specified that Central “repeatedly ignored and attempted to frustrate” Marlboro’s efforts to exercise the buyout clause of its contract with Central. Marlboro provided Defendant (Central) with formal notice of its intention to withdraw back on May 6, 2019.
According to the lawsuit, Central is also damaging Marlboro for this decision by entrusting ECSC (Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina), a statewide cooperative advocacy organization, with certain operations critical to Central’s relationship with its twenty member cooperatives. Marlboro withdrew from ECSC in August 2018 in order to provide services such as a monthly magazine and marketing materials directly, cutting substantial annual costs according to a release provided by MEC last year. ECSC has responded by, using the newfound authority given to it by Central, freezing Marlboro out of significant operations – including last month’s emergency response coordination to Hurricane Dorian.
Marlboro claims this ongoing alienation by Central represents “a complete breach of its legal duty and a clear breach of its contractual obligations.”
The Dillon Herald reached out to Marlboro who provided this statement: “In keeping with our mandate to advance our members’ best interests and safeguard their electric cooperative for the future, MEC has sought to negotiate in good faith on the buyout provision of the current contract, along with SC State Statute,” said William Fleming, the cooperative’s chief executive officer. “Unfortunately, our good faith efforts have not been reciprocated, leaving us, regrettably, with no other option when it comes to how best to secure competitive rates reliable power for those who depend on us.”
“The last few years have made it abundantly clear that, in order to protect our members, action is required,” Fleming added. “We have never hesitated to take such steps on behalf of our members, and this case is no exception. Our continued hopes however are for Central and the remaining members to diligently work towards our exit allowed by law in a professional, good faith manner that everyone deserves.”
This paper has reported on each rate decrease provided by Marlboro Electric to its consumers annually over the past six years. When Fleming was asked about how this lawsuit affects those decreases, his response was “MEC has worked extremely hard to provide our membership with substantial decreases bringing our rates down to some of the, if not the lowest in the state and possibly the southeast. Our withdrawal from Central, and subsequent lawsuit to achieve our exit swiftly, is so that we can remain the lowest cost power provider for the next 20+ years, not just the next two. We are confident that we can achieve this by ending our membership in Central and our subsidization of the other cooperatives in the state.”
The complaint appears in the file below: