COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Activists are trying to head off a new round of higher electric bills by pulling together a new campaign to cancel what they call a "blank check" for utilities.
The group calls itself the "Stop the Blank Check" coalition. It's made up of community, business, and environmental activists. The coalition is specifically targeting a pending request from SCE&G to raise utility rate, which is now being considered by the state's public utility commission.
SCE&G is asking the commission for permission to raise rates to cover financing costs which are adding up now for two new nuclear power plants under construction at a cost of $14 billion. The coalition is more broadly going after the Base Load Review Act, the state law that spells out how such rate increases are to be evaluated and approved.
The activists say rising rates can be crippling for vital small businesses.
"And then, of course, the consumer, if the consumer continues to have higher and higher rate increases, that is money those consumers can spend with small businesses. So both the consumer and the small businesses will feel the impact," Frank Knapp with the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce said.
SCE&G says the rate increases are an investment to keep the financing costs under control for the new nuke plant projects and that higher rates now will save customers $4 billion over the life of the plants. Company representatives say the project is a long-term investment in non-carbon emitting energy for customers, their children, and their grandchildren.