Members of the South Carolina House on Wednesday said they would only support a Senate proposal to delay action on nuclear-related legislation if senators also agreed to block South Carolina Electric & Gas from continuing to charge customers for the ill-fated V.C. Summer nuclear project.
The House tacked language on to a Senate resolution which seeks to push back any decision by state regulators on South Carolina Electric and Gas until December. The House added language that would repeal the 18 percent of customers’ power bills which go towards paying off the project.
“Let’s give them their (later) dates,” State Rep. Peter McCoy, R-James Island, said. “But, in the interim, we’re asking one simple request: reduce the nuclear premium. Take the 18 percent to zero.”
The 107-1 vote comes among increasing frustration by House members that the Senate has not taken up a single one of the half-dozen House bills related to energy or state oversight. Senate leaders say they want to take time to get it right and not risk a lawsuit.
“What we don’t want to do is to pass something… and have a court decide the next day that what we’ve done is improper and then (ratepayers) get stuck with these rates even longer,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, told reporters in response. “We’ve got to do it the right way.”
Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, noted the timing, saying House members are beginning to file for reelection in March.
But House counterparts were angered by the delay — the Senate Judiciary Committee has only held a single hearing on one bill — and said action is needed to stop SCE&G from collecting roughly $38 million per month towards the now-defunct project. The company announced last month it converted the payments into a dividend for stockholders after reporting losses in the most recent quarter. SCE&G has roughly $5 billion in debt from the project.
“Enough is enough,” State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia said. “The ratepayers have paid for seven years. Give them a year off.”
Gov. Henry McMaster has sided with the House, saying in a statement that “To continue to allow utilities to charge South Carolinians for the failed project at VC Summer when we have the ability to stop it would be a failure on the part of our state’s government.”