'We feel betrayed': Lawmakers blast power companies on nuclear project's halt

'We feel betrayed': Lawmakers blast power companies on nuclear project's halt

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - After being blindsided by the news of SCE&G and Santee Cooper's plans to abandon the multi-billion dollar nuclear reactor project in Fairfield County, lawmakers voiced concerns and criticized the companies for not pursuing the plan that's over budget and behind schedule on Tuesday. 

"We feel betrayed. We feel misled. And we feel abandoned," Senator Mike Fanning (D- Fairfield) said on Tuesday morning.  

The billions of dollars from ratepayers, meant to build two nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, now must pay to abandon the troubled project instead. Fanning and State Representative MaryGail Douglas (D- Fairfield) expressed outrage at the decision to abandon. 

The legislators from Fairfield say the loss of jobs and money in higher electric rates from SCE&G customers should be reasons to stay on the project. 

"We, the government, have gr anted you a monopoly," Fanning said, "We have gr anted you the right to increase the amount that you charge customers far beyond what they deserve, to pay for the power that they receive. But the promise was, in return for this excess 18 to 20%, there was a promise made that we would have energy, independency in South Carolina, that we would see lower rates in the future, that we would have clean energy. We were promised those two nuclear reactors," Fanning said. 

He proposes the General Assembly allow state dollars toward the project from next year's budget, to help right the reactor plan. 

"I've certainly been on the House floor whenever we bailed and sent rescue dollars to Boeing. So, we have done that. The investment is too far along. I believe in the bottom, up, in talking to some of these folks that are actually on the ground- the boots on the ground," Douglas said. 

Commissioners with the Public Service Commission questioned SCE&G staff on Tuesday morning. Staff reported it would cost between $4 and $5 billion to abandon the project, but plan to mitigate the cost to ratepayers. 

One commissioner called said the plan would "shatter lives, hopes, and dreams," when jobs are lost. 

"It's certainly a sad day that it has come to this," Lynn Teague with the League of Women Voters said. 

Teague has long been critical of the V.C. Summer nuclear reactors project, in part, because of her higher electric bills. She said she is not surprised the power plant project has come to a halt. She only wonders how the near $5 billion cost to quit the project now will impact ratepayers.

"Public trust is absolutely at stake here," Teague said. 

She doesn't feel the General Assembly should the project out, however. "I don't believe it's appropriate for the tax payers to carry the risk on this," Teague said, "Why would we expect a best-case scenario now, when we haven't gotten that any time in the past?" 

"The government be seen, to be intervening to protect a company's profits...it can't be seen to be intervening to protect some small subset of citizens of the state, at the expense of all the others," she said. 

"I stand here for the folks that were abandoned," Fanning said.

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