The South Carolina Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution which would temporarily cut South Carolina Electric&Gas (SCE&G) power rates by 13 percent.
Lawmakers targeted a percentage of customers’ bills which are going to pay off the ill-fated V.C. Summer nuclear expansion. The amount matches what a previous audit recommended as the amount of cuts the utility could withstand without risking insolvency.
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, opposed the resolution, arguing it was unconstitutional to revoke a utility’s rates when that utility is following state law. “I don’t know what else to tell you other than to say we’re not getting anywhere fast talking about this,” he said.
The move also puts into jeopardy a potential offer from Virginia-based Dominion Energy to buy SCE&G’s parent SCANA. Dominion CEO Tom Farrell has said the deal hinges on the company continuing to collect from ratepayers to recover SCE&G’s nearly $5 billion in debt from the V.C. Summer project.
Any rate cut would be temporarily until the state Public Service Commission has a chance to make a final ruling later this year.
Gov. Henry McMaster, meanwhile, has said he will veto any bill that does not let customers off the hook. The House previously passed its own version of the resolution which repeals the entire 18 percent of bills which funded construction at the time work was abandoned. SCE&G is currently using the roughly $38 million per month to pay dividends to its investors.
Hutto said the resolution would almost certainly be challenged in court and taxpayers would be on the hook for legal expenses should the state lose. He also said that waiting to do anything would be best. “We know if we delay this Dominion is not walking away. SCANA isn’t filing bankruptcy. And there will be no lawsuit filed.”