A panel of House and Senate negotiators has agreed to a compromise on a series of utility-related reforms, but they may need to get two-thirds of members to support them.
The joint conference committee consisting of three senators and three representatives agreed on a bill Wednesday that would temporarily repeal all nuclear-related rate hikes from the power bills of SCE&G residents after 2010. That would lead to an effective 15 percent decrease in rates (average of $22 per month for a home) until state regulators make a final decision on how much SCE&G can charge its customers — if at all — to pay back debt on the ill-fated V.C. Summer nuclear expansion.
The committee also agreed to a Senate bill which would prevent the Public Service Commission from making a final decision until at least December.
Members of the full House and Senate will still need to vote on the bills this week. That is expected to be difficult in the Senate, where State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, has previously threatened to filibuster any attempt to cut SCE&G’s rates. Hutto has argued the attempt could scuttle the utility’s proposed merger with Dominion Energy, which has insisted it could pull out of the deal if lawmakers do not allow it to use customers’ bills to repay nuclear debt.
“The South Carolina Legislature is playing a high-stakes game where they are gambling with the money of customers and taxpayers,” Dominion’s CEO Tom Farrell said in a statement. “All of this for a few headlines and a temporary rate reduction that has good odds of being overturned in court. It is a disappointing and short-sighted action that is counter to the best interests of South Carolina and its people.”
On the opposite end, Gov. Henry McMaster has vowed to veto any bill that does not eliminate the nuclear-related charges (roughly 18 percent decrease). The Governor’s Office confirmed Wednesday it will veto the bill in its current form. Legislators are hoping they have enough votes to override any potential veto.