Electric rates rollback reduced under Senate plan

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The plan to roll back electric rates for SCE&G customers changed again on Wednesday night after the Senate tweaked resolution S. 954 to cut electric bills by 18%. After their vote 26 to 16, S. 954 would cut rates by 13%, leaving 5% of customers' bills to pay for the abandoned nuclear reactors in Fairfield County at V.C. Summer.

That temporary rate would last until the Dominion Energy merger with SCANA is decided on, which could be as late as December.

Some senators, spearheaded by Mike Fanning, fought for slashing that nuclear charge entirely so that customers would no longer pay anything for the failed reactors. Dominion has said it could change the grounds of their offer.

"I'm excited in the fact that it may pull that offer off the table and may put other offers on the table that instead of looking out for shareholders may look out for the ratepayers at SCE&G and SCANA," Sen. Mike Fanning (D- Fairfield) said.

Others like Brad Hutto, say cutting rates at all is a bad idea and will send the General Assembly into a lawsuit and cost taxpayers.

"I've told you from the beginning that I thought we ought to be about doing no harm, that we ought to be about the adults in the room. We know the House is running for re-election and we know why they're voting to cut rates because they want to be able to say 'we cut rates and the mean 'ole bad 'ole Senate wouldn't do it.' Well, the mean 'ole bad 'ole Senate is supposed to be the grown-ups in the room," Sen. Brad Hutto (D- Orangeburg) said.

The amendment to keep the 5% nuclear charge was Majority Leader Shane Massey's idea. Massey explained his belief it could keep the General Assembly out of a courtroom in the long run.

"I'm an SCE&G customer. Right now, 18% of my bill is devoted to V.C. Summer for which I will never get a benefit. It's not fair that I have to continue paying that. But there's another consideration and that is legally, 'how far can we go?' 'What will the courts uphold?' What I don't want to do is to pull all of those rates out and tell people you're not going to have to pay all that and then the courts strike it all down and everybody's got to keep paying that 18%," Sen. Shane Massey (R- Edgefield) said.

The bill still hasn't passed the Senate; they adjourned on Wednesday night after tweaking the bill just around 9 p.m. There are more amendments to vote on, and one senator still plans to filibuster the bill.

If and when it does pass, Senate and House will have to meet and agree on a compromise before it goes to the governor. Any rate cuts would take effect immediately if the governor signs it.

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