State lawmakers review bills aimed at protecting utility customers

lawmakers review bills aimed at protecting utility customers

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV)- Some utility customers in South Carolina have been billed more than a billion dollars for a nuclear plant that never happened. Tuesday, lawmakers met to discuss measures aimed at protecting consumers after construction of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant near Charleston stopped.

SCANA customers have seen an 18% increase on their bills to pay for the failed nuclear plant and now lawmakers are working to stop the rate hikes.”Right now they’re paying for a nuclear project that will not be completed and they have been paying for this project,” said Representative Peter McCoy.

It’s a project that lawmakers say investors knew wouldn’t happen as early as 2012. SCANA has collected $1.2 billion from customers to offset the money it lost. So lawmakers met to see how they could offer customers financial relief.

“We’ll cut that 18% it’ll do away with the abandonment costs on the ratepayer’s backs and it would provide for an interim rate moving forward and not having the ratepayer’s pay for this project,” explained McCoy. Some of the bills discussed include refunding money to utility customers and putting a consumer advocate in the attorney general’s office to work on the customer’s behalf.

Lawmakers are also considering putting Santee Cooper under the public service authority for more oversight. Santee Cooper says legislation like this could cause more problems. The utility company put up 45% of the cost for this failed nuclear plant.

Santee Cooper’s attorney, James Brogdon, was at Tuesday’s meeting. He expressed concerns the company has in regards to some of the bills proposed. “They are concerned about how that might affect investor confidence in bonds issued by the state of South Carolina,” said Brogdon.

Santee Cooper is also worried that if they can’t recover the money spent for the nuclear plant, the company will violate its contract with investors, which could lead to lawsuits.

The subcommittee unanimously approved all 6 bills aimed at protecting utility customers and putting more oversight on utility providers.

The bills will now go to the full committee, if passed it will be presented on the House floor.

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