Governor Henry McMaster continues to stand firm in his threat to veto any legislation which only gives SCE&G customers a partial rate cut as a result of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station construction failure.
“Absolutely,” he responded Wednesday when asked if he would veto legislation that does not fully cut out the portion of SCE&G rates which went to pay for the failed construction project. “The only good number is zero.”
The Senate passed a bill that includes a 13 percent rate cut for customers. The House rejected that in a 104-7 vote Wednesday, favoring its own version which eliminates the full 18 percent.
“There are a lot of legislator games being played in the legislature right now,” he said. “There are a lot of conversations going back and forth but none of that can obscure the fact that the people, the customers, the ratepayers who bought power from SCANA had no choice but to pay that 18 percent. If those reactors are not going to be built then those people who paid their money ought to get their money back and they should not pay a penny more.”
Neither proposal would return customer’s money already spent, although Dominion Energy has pledged an average $1,000 rebate to impacted customers if it is able to acquire SCE&G. However, the company says it will only pursue the merger if it is allowed to continue charging the full rates to pay off the project’s debt.
SCE&G and Santee Cooper decided in July to abandon the V.C. Summer expansion project. Yet SCE&G continues to charge customers for the construction cost as it seeks to recover nearly $5 billion in debt.
“These are people who paid money over a number of years,” McMaster said. “They’re not getting what they paid for. They should not pay a single dime more for something that they are not . . . getting and they’ve been paying for 10 years. It defies logic. It defies common sense. And it defies good faith to require people to pay for something they’re not going to get, particularly after they’ve been paying for it for years. We ought to be rushing to give them their money back not rushing to see how much more we’re going to let the company charge them for something they’re not going to get. It’s absurd.”
Over nearly a decade, the utilities asked state regulators to approve rate increases to cover the growing cost of the multi-billion-dollar nuclear project.
McMaster said with just four days of work left in the legislative session, addressing the ratepayer issue is one of his priorities.
“I think that we need not do is to continue to charge the people who have been paying for these reactors another dime for the reactors that they’re not going to get. It defies logic for the legislature — legislators to even be considering continuing to charge those people for something they’re not going to get.”