A new coalition of business and advocacy groups is pushing for tighter state regulation of utilities in South Carolina, following the abandonment of a nuclear project this summer despite nearly $9 billion in spending.
Stop the Blank Check Coalition said it rejects South Carolina Electric and Gas’s (SCE&G) position that ratepayers be partially responsible for $2 billion in abandonment costs for the now-shuttered expansion of V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.
Coalition member Frank Knapp of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce said there need to be extensive reforms to South Carolina’s utility regulation system.
“Major change comes about because of crisis,” Knapp said Wednesday during a press conference at the Statehouse. “We don’t have a bigger business crisis in this state than what’s going on with those nuclear plants.”
SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the construction of the reactors July 31. Its lead design contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy earlier this year while the project remained billions over budget and years behind schedule.
Ratepayers of the two utilities may have to pick up the cost of construction bonds for the failed project. “Those obligations to pay off those bonds are there,” Knapp said. “The question is who is going to hold those obligations.”
Among the changes proposed by the coalition on Wednesday include giving the governor the ability to choose members of the state Public Service Commision (rather than legislators, as is currently done) and requiring Santee Cooper to go through the same regulatory public oversight as private utilities.