South Carolina regulators approved a temporary rate decrease for SCE&G customers on Monday, less than a week after legislators set the rates into law.
However, SCE&G is suing in federal court in an effort to prevent the cut from taking effect.
The state Public Service Commission approved the 15 percent decrease at its Monday meeting and plans to hear from SCE&G at a second meeting on Tuesday.
The state House and Senate set the lower rates in response to the V.C. Summer expansion project’s failure last year. But SCE&G insists the law allowed it to recover debt through ratepayer bills and that its due process rights were denied.
The new law required the commission significantly reduce the rate SCE&G is charging customers to pay back debt on the V.C. Summer nuclear project’s expansion. The law requires the PSC eliminate any rate increases after 2010, or roughly 15 percent of SCE&G power bills.
In the filing, SCANA attorneys claim the company had made the massive investment in V.C. Summer with the understanding that the 2007 Base Load Review Act would allow it to recover debt from ratepayers should the project fail.
“Now, despite existing law… and the fact there are and have been ongoing proceedings to evaluate SCE&G’s construction efforts, the General Assembly has elected to change the proverbial rules of the game after it has ended,” the complaint stated.
SCANA is hoping that a federal court filing could avoid state court judges who are appointed by the same legislators who passed the law. However, it will have to make the case that a federal courtroom is an appropriate venue. The utility argued the legislature is violating its “due process” rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The other utility involved in the project state-owned Santee Cooper is not regulated by the PSC and was not covered by last week’s law. Its customers are also repaying the utility’s losses, although at a much lower rate for now.