COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Right now, SCE&G customers continue to pay each month for a nuclear project in Fairfield County that was abandoned months ago. But would SCE&G and its parent company SCANA go bankrupt if customers' bills were reduced?
That's a question that has been vexing some lawmakers who say customers should no longer pay for a failed, abandoned project.
Both SCANA and the company hoping to buy it, Dominion, have indicated if customers stop paying each month toward the failed project the company might face bankruptcy.
However, a new report from state watchdogs tells a different story.
A new Office of Regulatory Staff report says SCANA would face a 35% likelihood of bankruptcy if customers stopped paying each month toward the nuclear project. A certified bankruptcy attorney concluded that suspending the electric rates that were put in place to fund the nuclear construction is "unlikely to force SCE&G into bankruptcy."
The report could give lawmakers ammunition to repeal the Base Load Review Act, the law that allowed bills to be raised multiple times to finance the failed project.
On Tuesday, during a committee meeting in which Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell appeared before senators to present his plan to buy SCANA and answer questions, Senator Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) told him he thought the threats of a bankrupt SCANA were bluffs.
On Saturday, SCE&G released a statement through a spokesperson saying the 35% chance of bankruptcy is too much of a risk to take.
"We don't agree with all of the financial conclusions reached in the report. Even if the conclusions are accurate, a 35% chance of bankruptcy is too much of a risk to take," Eric Boomhower, a spokesman for SCE&G said. "We believe the best course of action is to embrace the known solution of the Dominion Energy proposal. Moreover, as has been discussed publicly, suspending the collection of the rates would increase the company's borrowing costs, which would in turn result in substantially higher costs for customers over the long term."
The report says SCANA collects approximately $445 million each year for the abandoned nuclear construction.