State agency urges regulators to lower SCE&G rates

The Public Service Commission will hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss utility rates. This comes as the fallout continues over the failed nuclear reactor project in Jenkinsville.

The Office of Regulatory Staff filed a petition Tuesday urging the Public Service Commission to provide customers with some rate relief.  The news came hours after Attorney General Alan Wilson released a 50-page opinion calling the Base Load Review Act, the law which helped pave the way for the failed nuclear project, constitutionally suspect.

The Office of Regulatory Staff petition calls for the immediate suspension of revised rates tied to the abandoned project, and further action if state lawmakers revoke the Base Load Review Act or if a court declares the law unconstitutional.

According to the filing, SCE&G continues to collect $37 million per month for the nuclear project.

In a blog post, Frank Knapp, the president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, shared a letter sent to Public Service Commission administrator Jocelyn Boyd.  In his letter, Knapp supports the call for rate relief, saying, “Residential and commercial ratepayers should not be denied the use of their money now being taken by SCE&G under a possibly unconstitutional act.  Not only does this pose a hardship for households but it also deprives local businesses of potential consumer spending for goods and services.”

In a separate blog post, Knapp said ratepayers could see a return of over $1.4 billion if the Base Load Review Act is declared unconstitutional or if the legislature overturns the law.

Eric Broomhower, director of public affairs for SCE&G’s parent company SCANA, says the company is aware of the Office of Regulatory Staff’s filing, and plans to vigorously contest the rate relief request.

On Tuesday, the State Law Enforcement Division confirmed that it had launched a criminal investigation in connection to the failed nuclear project.  On Monday, House Speaker Jay Lucas and others urged SLED to look into “potential criminality” on behalf of SCE&G and SCANA.

According to the Associated Press, SCANA and its partner in the nuclear project, state-owned Santee Cooper, are considering selling a $2 billion, five-year settlement for a one-time payment to guarantee they’ll collect some money.

The utilities reached the settlement with Toshiba, the parent company of bankrupt contractor Westinghouse, in July.

Santee Cooper’s board of directors is scheduled to discuss the settlement Wednesday morning in Moncks Corner.

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