SLED investigates multi-billion dollar nuclear failure, as electric customers weigh-in

SLED investigates multi-billion dollar nuclear failure, as electric customers weigh-in

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirms they've launched an investigation into SCE&G and the failed nuclear reactors project in Fairfield County at V.C. Summer, at the request of House of Representatives Speaker Jay Lucas.

On Tuesday, electric customers got their chance to speak out on the project they've been paying into in higher rates for years. One by one, they made demands of the House's Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee. They ask for a variety of things.

One ratepayer, David Eisenhower, told the panel he feels electricity in South Carolina is monopolized.

"I feel like I'm being forced to pay for that, and I think it's wrong and on that, South Carolina Electric and Gas has got the monopoly right here in central South Carolina and Charleston, part of it anyway," Eisenhower said.

"The money should be repaid," another customer, Wendell Bedenbaugh said.

The consensus of those who spoke was that electric companies SCANA and Santee Cooper should repay the money in higher rates customers have spent on the now failed project. They also do not want to continue paying elevated rates for any deconstruction costs.

"It is your job, in my opinion, to make sure something like this can never, ever, ever happen again. The decisions you make either help or hurt your constituents. This hurt your constituents. In my personal opinion, I hope this stays on the front burner throughout next year's election," ratepayer Allen Olson said.

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Furthermore, they want something done to encourage more of a free market on electricity. Also, they want a state agency tasked with protecting consumers more, to keep the debacle from happening ever again.

Some lawmakers, like committee co-chair Rep. Russell Ott, believe the agencies in place tasked with representing the consumer failed to do so in this situation.

"The Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) has a mission statement that is virtually impossible to carry out. You know, they have one leg of the stool that is supposed to be looking out for the utilities and then on the other side, they're tasked with looking out for the best interest of the ratepayers," Ott (D- Calhoun) said.

Meanwhile, law enforcement is investigating the multi-billion-dollar nuclear fall-out, upon the Speaker Jay Lucas' request. Committee co-chairs Ott and Rep. Peter McCoy (R- Charleston) also signed the formal request to SLED.

"Knowing and omitting the fact that they knew this project was not going forward is a problem, okay, and it comes to a point in time when this is no longer a fact-finding committee which we are doing now, you know. We have to refer this out for potential issues that we see that could arise," McCoy said.

Lastly, customers also expressed the desire for a statute's repeal; they want the law that allows utility companies to fund projects through rate hikes, the Base Load Review Act, repealed. Attorney General Alan Wilson released his opinion on that law Tuesday morning, at the request of several House members. Wilson calls it "constitutionally suspect."

SCANA tells WIS they are cooperating with federal and state investigations, and also that any settlement money they get from their former project partner Toshiba, could be used to the benefit of customers.

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