AIKEN — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley asked that President Obama declare almost half of her state a federal disaster area after last month’s ice storm caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.
Haley filed a federal disaster declaration on Tuesday, asking that 21 of the state’s 46 counties be made eligible for federal disaster assistance.
“The damages across the state were $54 million from that ice storm,” Haley said Wednesday, speaking to the Aiken Republican Club. “We certainly haven’t had anything like that in a long, long time.”
The storm caused 347,000 power outages that Haley said were restored in a week. Haley, who visited Aiken County in the storm’s immediate aftermath, applauded utility workers and residents for coming together during two winter storms that hit the state.
“What I appreciated was the way Team South Carolina stepped up in both occasions and really made us proud in the way they handled it,” she said.
Haley’s visit came a day after a federal budget proposal recommended placing Savannah River Site’s mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility on standby to assess more cost-effective methods for disposing of plutonium. According to the National Nuclear Security Administration, $3.9 billion has been spent building the 600,000-square-foot MOX plant, which is about 60 percent complete. Cost estimates for the program’s life-cycle grew to $30 billion.
“I don’t think we are looking at a termination of MOX,” Haley said after speaking to the club. “I think what you’re looking at is the federal government saying this is too expensive for us to continue on; we have to find another plan.”
Haley said that she met with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz several weeks ago and that she will continue working with South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott to find best-case scenarios for Savannah River Site. The governor added that she’s concerned about jobs for the area and will continue to recruit private-sector employers to stabilize the area economy.
“The one argument I made is this is a facility that is efficient and effective. If you line it up with the other facilities in the country, it’s our best,” Haley said. “Why are we hurting our best?”
Haley said Moniz plans to follow up on an invitation from South Carolina lawmakers to visit SRS.