The cost of shutting down the V.C. Sumter nuclear plant could mean 60 years of elevated utility rates for consumers.
During a briefing with the state’s Public Service Commission on Tuesday, the project’s majority owner South Carolina Electric & Gas proposed that consumers continue to pay for an estimated $4.9 billion in shutdown and financing costs over almost 60 years. This irked environmentalists across the state who opposed the V.C. Summer reactor project from its outset.
Friends of the Earth senior advisor Tom Clements called the plan outrageous and believes SCE&G shareholders should pay for the bill instead of consumers.
“$9 billion down the drain and the ratepayers aren’t going to get anything for it except 60 years of the bill,” Clements said. “We think it was wrong to pursue the project initially. But it is certainly even worse now to try to make ratepayers pay for SCE&G’s monster mistake.”
Consumers have already contributed $1.9 billion to the reactors in increased utility bills. SCE&G officials said they hope to only pass on $2.2 billion out of the $4.9 billion to customers. The difference could come through up to $2 billion in tax deductions and $700 million as part of a settlement with Westinghouse parrent company Toshiba. But SEC&G said it may need to increase rates as a part of closing down the reactors.
The Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth filed an appeal to make sure that reparations get paid back to consumers. On Wednesday the Public Service Commission agreed to hold a joint hearing with SCE&G to hear from the public. That hearing is initially scheduled for November. SCE&G would reqiure the commission’s permission to formally abandon the project and seek repayment through ratepayers.
“I think the public need to put pressure on their individual legislators to support the examination of this project and the decision making by the Public Service Commission,” Clements said.
Some state legislators already jumped on the cause and have announced a public hearing. State Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, agreed to the request by Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Rankin, R-Horry, to hold a Public Utilities Review Committee meeting on Aug. 23 to review what went wrong and any potential lessons learned.