Friday, March 30, 2018

S.C. House and Senate can't agree on how much to slash from SCE&G bills

The average customer pays $27 a month for the failed nuclear reactors in Fairfield County

Posted by Adam Manno on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 at 9:51 AM

Crews work on the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County - SCE&G PHOTO
  • SCE&G photo
  • Crews work on the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County
The debate over SCE&G's bills will have to wait until April 10 after the Senate delayed the final vote on a bill that would force SCE&G to cut its bills by 13 percent on Thursday.

The move would slash most, but not all, of the amount customers pay from costs incurred by the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.

Earlier this month, the state House inserted language into the Senate proposal that reduces the company's electric rates by 18 percent — the total amount that's been going to the reactors that will never produce a watt of electricity. The complete cut was passed in the lower chamber by a vote of 107-1, according to the Associated Press.

"You've been cheated," Rep. Micah Caskey said before the House vote on March 7. "Our colleagues in the Senate should be ashamed of their inaction."

But the Senate's vote to cut 13 percent, which passed by a margin of 26-16 on Wednesday, is much more in line with a Senate-commissioned estimate of what SCANA, SCE&G's parent company, can afford to cut.

An analysis by a Washington, D.C.-based firm said that the company could take a 13 percent hit to its ratepayers' bills if it would just eliminate quarterly payments to investors. Last year, the company passed along $319 million in dividends to investors, including $120 million tied to the two failed reactors, according to P&C.

On Wednesday, some senators were worried that passing such a bill would scare away Virginia-based Dominion Energy. The company announced plans to take over SCANA on Jan. 3, with the condition that it be allowed to keep charging SCE&G's 700,000 customers for the failed project.

"If we pass this, there is nothing to stop Dominion from walking away," said S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) during debate on the bill.

Dominion's deal would refund $2 billion to customers, but it would require them to pay $3.8 billion over the next 20 years.

If the Senate passes the bill when it returns on Mon. April 9, it will have to work with the House on a comrpomise to send to Gov. McMaster's desk.

McMaster has been adamant about vetoing any bill that doesn't completely slash the costs tied to the failed projects.

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