Bipartisan SC Senate leaders call for special session in wake of V.C. Summer abandonment

Bipartisan SC Senate leaders call for special session in wake of V.C. Summer abandonment

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - Two South Carolina State Senators are calling for a special session of the General Assembly to reconvene after the abandonment of the V.C. Summer nuclear project in Fairfield County.

The statement, released Friday says:

Today Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, and Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, issued a joint letter to President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, requesting the General Assembly reconvene to consider a joint resolution halting new action on the V.C. Summer Project until the legislature has a chance to act during the 2018 session. 
"As the Republican and Democratic Leaders of the Senate, we and the members of our caucuses are greatly concerned by the announcement earlier this week by SCANA and Santee Cooper that the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station of the project would be abandoned," the letter states. 
A copy of the full letter issued on August 4, 2017, is attached.

South Carolina Electric & Gas announced Monday that plans to abandon the reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia.

The decision came after the board of state-owned utility Santee Cooper voted Monday to halt construction. The reactors were set to be among the first new nuclear reactors built in the U.S. in decades, but the vote by Santee Cooper's board on Monday likely ends their future.

"There just needs to be a time out, a pause, whatever you want to call it until the General Assembly has the opportunity to understand in detail what has happened here," said Setzler, who was one of 25 Senate sponsors of a 2007 law that allowed utilities to increase rates to pay for the plants before they ever generated power.

A different group of bipartisan lawmakers calling themselves the Energy Caucus also called for a special session this week to review that law and to consider firing the Public Service Commission, which has to approve all of SCE&G's rate hikes.

Neither Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence nor House Speaker Jay Lucas of Hartsville has called for a special session, but Lucas did release a statement, saying.

Our first and primary goal should be protecting the ratepayers of South Carolina from increased energy costs. The impulsive legislative action contemplated by Senators Massey and Setzler could have unintended and negative consequences and lead to higher rates for consumers.

Gov. Henry McMaster's ability to call a special session was greatly hampered by a state Supreme Court ruling six years ago. His office has said there need to be exhaustive legislative hearings to figure out how to prevent something like this from happening again.

Both utilities have increased their rates several times over the past decade to pay for construction of the reactors. The project accounts for 18 percent of SCE&G's residential electric bills and more than 8 percent of Santee Cooper's. Neither company plans to refund a dime.

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