South Carolina senators pounced on Dominion Energy over its plan to increase earnings for its own stockholders with some of the ratepayer money it argues is ostensibly needed to repay debt from a failed nuclear project.
Dominion Energy needs approval to buy Cayce-based utility SCANA, pledging to give SCANA customers a $1,000 rebate as part of the deal. However, the utility said the deal is contingent on it being able to continue charge those customers higher rates to cover stockholders who invested in the ill-fated V.C. Summer Nuclear Generation Station expansion.
CEO Thomas Farrell was back in Columbia pitching the purchase Wednesday before a Senate panel. He admitted Dominion stockholders would receive some earnings as part of the deal, but said he did not know how much specifically over the 20 years the company wants to continue the higher rates.
State Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield told Farrell that he does not like that plan. “To me, it’s giving folks some money up front so that they then are on the hook for 20 years, he said at Wednesday’s meeting. “And I’m trying to get them off the hook for 20 years, regardless of whether you give them $1,000 or not.”
Meanwhile, state senators gave initial approval Wednesday to a resolution that would prevent the state’s Public Service Commission from making a decision on any Dominion-SCANA merger until December. The measure requires a third vote Thursday before it can go to the House.
Dominion has said that its purchase of SCANA is contingent upon the state keeping the Base Load Review Act. That’s the law which allows a utility to charge a customer to build new plants that generate power while under construction. “To collect up front as they’re building something. We’re no longer building anything,” Fanning told Farrell.
SCANA and state-owned utility Santee Cooper pulled the plug on a reactor expansion project at the VC Summer plant in July. Both utilities said they had no feasible way to finish the project after the bankruptcy of its lead contractor Westinghouse.