Where the 2018 Candidates Stand on Energy: Republican Nominee for South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster

Guest Blog | August 29, 2018 | Elections, South Carolina
This post is the second in a series of blogs examining where the 2018 candidates for state and federal offices in the Southeast stand on key energy and climate issues. SACE’s Sarah Gilliam and Chris Carnevale collaborated on this post. To read the candidate profile for Democratic Nominee for South Carolina Governor James Smith, click here.

Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools.

Candidate: Henry McMaster

Henry McMaster has served in the office of the Governor of South Carolina since January of last year, when he moved from the role as Lieutenant Governor when then-Governor Nikki Haley vacated the seat to accept her appointment to the role of U.N. Ambassador for the United States.


During his time in the office of Governor, McMaster has shown support for utility-scale and residential solar power. His campaign website says: “As the demand for power grows, so too will the need for increased production from sources like solar, wind and hydropower.”

Last year, Gov. McMaster supported the South Carolina solar industry by taking steps to fight federal tariffs on solar panels that were being considered at the time. In December 2017, McMaster testified at a U.S. Trade Representative hearing to voice opposition to the tariffs, saying “Solar power generation is an important part of South Carolina’s current and future prosperity and the extraordinary tariffs sought in this case risk disrupting the otherwise bright future of solar power in South Carolina […].”

Governor McMaster consistently praises the investments of solar companies in South Carolina in the news. For example, in a recent press release, McMaster said, “Our approach to creating a business-friendly environment for all types of companies continues to pay off, and Southern Current’s new investment in Anderson County is a testament to that. I look forward to seeing the impact that the renewable energy industry will continue to have in the region and across the state.”

In support of residential solar, Governor McMaster’s office was quoted as saying he supported the pro-solar bill to raise the cap on rooftop solar that was considered in the South Carolina Legislature this year [and co-sponsored by his Democratic opponent]: “Gov. McMaster voiced his support for the bill as it was debated in the House and he has supported it since […].”

Energy Efficiency

Despite doing extensive research for this post, we could not determine Governor McMaster’s stance on energy efficiency from publicly available information.

Fossil Fuels

Governor McMaster is strongly opposed to drilling for oil and gas off of South Carolina’s shores. In January of this year, he wrote a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, asking for South Carolina to be exempted from the federal offshore drilling plan and also stating opposition to seismic airgun exploration for offshore oil and gas. In the letter, McMaster said: “Every city and town council along the South Carolina coastline has voted to oppose seismic testing and drilling, and I agree with them.” The following week, McMaster included his opposition in his State of the State speech, saying, “We cannot take a chance. We must do whatever it takes to preserve this economic paradise we call ‘the beach, the marsh, the coast and the Lowcountry.’ It is made of gold.” Governor McMaster’s campaign website has a page titled “Protecting Our Coastline” about opposition to offshore drilling.

Climate Change

Governor McMaster was asked in a debate earlier this year about climate change. He said that the climate is changing, but did not attribute the changing climate on carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. McMaster supports Donald Trump’s move to take the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, the primary international climate protection agreement. When asked about his position on the Accord, McMaster said, “I’m with Trump. We’ll be fine. We’re getting better and better.”


Governor McMaster previously supported nuclear power, and still wishes for the completion of the V.C. Summer nuclear units, according to his campaign website, however he is opposed to customers paying for the reactors before they produce electricity, and would like to get refunds to customers for money they have paid toward the reactors since there is no pathway to their completion. On this subject, he said to the Post & Courier newspaper, “SCE&G should stop charging ratepayers for the project and refund the money already paid.”

Governor McMaster strongly urged the state Legislature this year to pass a bill that eliminates any nuclear construction cost for the V.C. Summer project from customers’ bills. He said: “Send me a bill that replaces the BLRA [nuclear customer financing mechanism] and prevents ratepayers from being charged in the future for the abandoned reactors at V.C. Summer and I will sign it. Send me a bill that continues to place the financial burden of this corporate failure on SC ratepayers and I will veto it.” McMaster made good on that promise by vetoing the bill that the Legislature sent him, which eliminated most of the current nuclear charges from SCE&G customers’ bills, but not all. The veto was overturned by the Legislature. Additionally, Governor McMaster has consistently advocated for selling state-owned Santee Cooper in hopes of getting rid of the utility’s $4 billion in nuclear debt that could ultimately be passed along to customers.

Clean Transportation

McMaster’s stance on clean transportation is not clear, based on publicly available information.  In 2017, he vetoed the comprehensive gas tax bill that included new fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, although there is no indication that the electric/hybrid fees played into his decision. To hear his full explanation behind the veto, listen to this video shared on Twitter. The fees were not mentioned as a clear reason he vetoed the bill, which was later overturned by the legislature.

We encourage you to register and then vote this November. Click here for voting resources provided by the South Carolina Board of Elections.  If you are inspired by this blog and have questions for the candidate, please contact his campaign here.

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