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South Carolina editorial roundup

November 27, 2019

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Nov. 26

The Post and Courier on a regulation that would prohibit a major state energy company from selling customers’ information:

Have you gotten your Dominion Energy come-on saying you need to buy insurance for the gas lines inside your house?

Three things you need to know about it, especially if you’re seriously considering letting the company add a $2.95 surcharge to your monthly power bill to cover it:

— It’s not actually from Dominion Energy, even though it came in a 9-by-12 envelope with Dominion’s logo in the upper left corner and the money would be collected by Dominion.

— If you have homeowners insurance, you probably don’t need this coverage, because you’re probably already covered.

— This is not a particularly good way for our new monopoly power company to endear itself to S.C. customers.

The solicitation comes as the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff is pushing the state Public Service Commission to adopt a regulation — similar to regulations that already apply to Dominion in North Carolina — that would prohibit Dominion from selling customers’ information without their consent and restrict how it can market these third-party offers.

As Columbia’s State newspaper reports, gas customers received the come-on because Dominion sold their addresses to HomeServe USA, a Connecticut company that has been subject to several complaints nationally because of its misleading pitches. The solicitation, which comes with a return envelope with a Columbia address that further misleads, warns that “you have not chosen the in-Home Gas Line Repair Program from HomeServe to protect against an interior gas line failure that may cost hundreds in out-of-pocket expenses to replace if a breakdown occurs.”

Under a recent Public Service Commission decision, Dominion and Duke would pay the lowest prices in the nation for electricity generated by So…

What Charleston and Columbia can and can’t do with our personal information is controlled by their respective mayors and city councils, whom we elect. What Dominion can do with our personal information is up to the PSC — which unfortunately has what can generously be called a mixed record when it comes to actually regulating power companies. As we were reminded again last week.

As The State reported, Dominion is fighting the proposal by the Office of Regulatory Staff to restrict its use of our customer data, arguing in legal papers that the proposed regulations are “disconnected from real-world concerns and without tangible benefits to customers.”

Frankly, it’s Dominion that seems to be disconnected.

It’s hard to understand how any monopoly could be allowed to sell customers’ information to third parties in the first place, since “monopoly” means we have no choice but to buy our electricity from the power company we’ve been assigned.

The PSC shouldn’t simply prohibit Dominion from selling our information without our approval — it certainly should do that. It should require customer approval from any utilities that want to sell customer information. And not simply opt-out approval, which tends to be couched in small-print legalese that causes most people’s eyes to glaze over. It needs to require opt-in, so no information is sold until we specifically tell the utilities they can sell it.

Taking those actions wouldn’t simply be the right response from a state agency whose sole reason to exist is to protect ratepayers from being taken advantage of by monopoly utilities. It also might help commissioners shed their reputation as the lapdogs of those utilities.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com

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Nov. 25

The Times and Democrat on preventing injury while keeping warm during the winter months:

November’s early blast of winter is forecast by some as the harbinger of colder temperatures ahead. With them will come the annual danger from fires caused of people trying to stay warm.

South Carolinians tend to turn on space heaters or enjoy the warmth from a fireplace. State Fire Marshal Jonathan Jones is urging citizens to be especially careful.

“Each season brings with it changes in the weather and our daily habits,” Jones said. “However, the risk of fire always increases any time heaters are turned on and fireplaces are in use. As such, we need to remain vigilant about fire safety, especially since our statistics reveal more home fires occur during the winter months than during any other part of the year.”

During last year’s winter months, 29 fatal fires in South Carolina resulted in 33 fire deaths. Ten of those fatalities, or 30%, were related to heating.

South Carolinians can reduce their risks of becoming a fire casualty by identifying potential hazards. Jones offers the following tips to keep homes and families safe this winter season:

— Only use kerosene heaters and space heaters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect the heater for cracked or broken plugs. If frayed, worn, or damaged, do not use the heater. Never leave heaters unattended. Always plug the space heater directly into the wall, not an extension cord or power strip; unplug when not in use.

— Heating pads and electric blankets also pose a fire risk – especially if more than 10 years old. Don’t place anything on top of either one while in use – this includes other blankets or pets. Never fold electric blankets or use while sleeping.

— Portable generators, commonly used in the winter as a result of storm-induced power outages, produce odorless and deadly carbon monoxide. Follow manufacturer’s instructions to prevent death from carbon monoxide. Never use a generator indoors.

— Be careful when using candles and keep them out of reach of children and pets. Since it is an open flame, never use a candle if oxygen is used in the home. Use sturdy candle holders and extinguish upon leaving a room or going to sleep.

— Since they are much safer to use than candles, have flashlights ready to use in case of a power outage.

— Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Only burn seasoned and dried wood. During the upcoming holiday season, avoid hanging decorations around the fireplace area. Never burn wrapping paper in a fireplace; it burns too fast and hot to be controlled. Wait until ashes are cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home. Never put ashes in a cardboard box or bag.

— Chimneys should be cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. If not, they can become filled with highly flammable layers of creosote.

— Do not use the kitchen stove or oven to heat the home. Neither are designed to heat large areas, and the element may fail causing a fire. Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended.

Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home - inside and outside of sleeping areas. Also, sleep with the bedroom door closed. Closing the door can increase your chance for survival by slowing the spread of fire and smoke.

“Every second counts when escaping a fire,” Jones said. “Take a few minutes to test and check your smoke alarms. If any of the alarms are more than 10 years old, they need to be replaced.”

Lastly, if there is a fire emergency, call 9-1-1 as soon as possible and remain outdoors. Never return inside a burning building for any reason.

As of Oct. 31, 53 people had died in fires in South Carolina in 2019. That’s down from 97 deaths in all of 2018. The hope now is to end the year with no more fatalities. Being cautious with heating is a key step in making that a reality.

Online: https://thetandd.com

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Nov. 23

The Aiken Standard on an all-female city council:

History will be made Monday night (Nov. 25) when the Aiken City Council swears in Kay Biermann Brohl and Gail Diggs as members.

Brohl and Diggs were elected and re-elected, respectively, earlier this month and join Lessie Price and Andrea Gregory on the panel, giving Aiken’s governing body a majority of female members.

That’s the first time that has happened in Aiken, longtime city clerk Sara Ridout confirmed.

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, who was unopposed for reelection, is joined in the male minority by council members Ed Girardeau and Ed Woltz.

Mayor Osbon doesn’t have a problem being outnumbered. He thinks it will be a “great version” of City Council, and says it might even be described as “City Council 2.0.”

Of the 10 municipalities in Aiken County, only Perry and Windsor can also boast of having a female majority council.

Price is the longest-serving member, first winning election to City Council in 1987. She and Diggs, who was first elected in 2011, are tireless voices for Aiken’s Northside and Aiken as a whole.

Gregory was elected in 2017 and represents District 5. Brohl will fill the seat of outgoing member Dick Dewar, who served District 3 for 12 years. We thank him for his service.

Having more diversity on the council is a good thing, and it’s also reflective of the city’s population. In the three decades since Price was first elected, Aiken has had several other women serve on City Council, including Beverly Clyburn, Karen Papouchado and Jane Vaughters.

Now Price is joined by three more women, all serving at the same time, and they will face several important issues going forward. As Mayor Osbon noted, “each one of these women have what’s best for Aiken in mind.”

With Melissa Oremus being recently elected to fill the S.C. House District 84 seat and three women running for positions on the Aiken County School Board, perhaps we’ll see a more diverse group of candidates step forward for other elected offices in the near future. Seeing more diverse candidates appointed to other local committees and boards would also be a step in the right direction.

Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue and bring different perspectives and energies to government.

We applaud you and look forward to seeing the great things you’ll accomplish in your positions.

Online: https://www.aikenstandard.com