COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The state Public Service Commission voted Thursday to move ahead with a process that could stop SCE&G from charging higher rates to cover costs of its failed nuclear construction project.
During a brief meeting, commissioners approved a proposal to set up a hearing requested by the state Office of Regulatory Staff.
ORS is expected to argue against allowing the utility to continue charging ratepayers an average of $27 a month or 18 percent of their bills to pay for costs linked to the reactor project shut down in late July.
Shortly before commissioners met, the company filed a motion to dismiss the ORS request. The oversight agency acted after a 57-page Attorney General's opinion earlier in the week called parts of the law allowing the charges "constitutionally suspect."
The opinion focused on the 2007 Base Load Review Act, which gave SCE&G the ability to begin increasing customer bills years before the reactors were scheduled to be completed.
ORS had support for its request from environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, both critical of the nuclear project.
Environmental attorney Bob Guild says in addition to preventing the utility from continuing to charge ratepayers for the failed project, he wants SCE&G ordered to provide reparations or refunds.
"We basically say they're not entitled to a dime for these abandoned plant costs," Guild said.
Company officials have indicated that eliminating charges for the project could cost SCE&G billions. The price of shares for SCANA, SCE&G's parent, has dropped dramatically over the past few weeks.