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Coalition Seeks to Stop SCE&G’s Blank Check

July 22, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

On July 18, representatives of numerous advocacy groups met at the South Carolina State House to announce the formation of a new coalition, called “Stop the Blank Check.”

 The coalition’s goal is to provide organized opposition to requests (Docket No. 2000-366-A) to the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) by South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) to increase the cost of constructing its two nuclear plants by $846 million and to raise overall electricity rates by 3.06% to pay for construction financing costs of the plants.  The South Carolina Public Service Commission will make the decision about these requests later this year.

In addition, the coalition will advocate for legislative changes to the Palmetto State’s Base Load Review Act , which they claim has enabled the nuclear plants to go “well over budget, three years behind schedule, and [become] very costly to SCE&G customers.”

Coalition members to date include, South Carolina Sierra Club, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Midlands, the Whitney M. Slater Foundation, Kingdom Living Temple, National Association of Social Workers-SC Chapter, New Alpha Community Development Corporation, and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.

The group outlined in a public statement, “Should the Public Service Commission approve the rate hike, SCE&G electricity customers will have had their rates increased by approximately 20 percent since 2009 under a state law, the Base Load Review Act. To date SCE&G customers have paid about $1.1 billion in higher electric bills under the BLRA. If the increase in construction costs is approved, the nuclear plants will be about 43 percent over the original projected budget.”

And, the coalition said, because the state’s other major utility, Santee Cooper, owns 45 percent of the nuclear plants and their costs, Santee Cooper’s direct retail and the state’s electrical cooperatives’ customers will be dramatically impacted by approval of $846 million in increased construction costs.

The Stop the Blank Check Coalition has launched a website (www.stoptheblankcheck.net) and will advocate for:

  1. The non-approval this fall of an additional $846.6 million for construction costs for SCE&G’s nuclear plants;
  2. A reduced SCE&G rate-hike this fall;
  3. Amending the Base Load Review Act in 2017 in order to better protect customers from future run-away costs and rates.

 “The coalition members agree that our members and constituencies we serve don’t want to pay any more than necessary for constructing the nuclear plants,” commented Frank Knapp Jr., CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, adding,The Base Load Review Act has turned into a blank check for SCE&G and will be so for future utilities that want to use it. The Act emasculated the Public Service Commission from its proper role of being able to say ‘no’ to SCE&G once it approved the initial project and the PSC can’t even reduce the 10.5 percent Return on Equity the utility is seeking.”

The coalition welcomes new members.

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