How low can they go? Overwhelming House vote poises the fight to lower SCE&G rates

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The debate over how much to lower SCE&G customers' rates after the nuclear fallout and abandonment of reactors in Fairfield County continued on Wednesday afternoon and will last a little longer.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted 104 to 7, to reject the Senate's plan to keep 5 percent of the nuclear charge customers pay and discount their bills by 13 percent. The House wants to keep trying for more of a discount and d rop the rate for nuclear to 0 percent, lowering bills by 18 percent.

The debate over S.954 brought about arguments centered on the old saying "a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush."

"In this game of chicken- and I'm not calling us chickens, I'm just saying- in this game that we're playing, this is pretty serious," Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D- Orangeburg) said.

Some representatives argued that it may not be possible to try to lower rates more than 13 percent and that gambling risks any relief to ratepayers at all.

"It's a matter of realizing that we are gambling with what happens at the ratepayer's meter," Rep. MaryGail Douglas (D- Fairfield) said.

Those 104 representatives, however, say it is not right to charge customers any amount of money for a project that won't happen.

"Stealing is stealing, whether it's a quarter or whether it's a dollar. Zero is the answer," Rep. Gary Simrill (R- York) said.

With this vote, the bill goes back to the Senate; senators will vote on whether to agree to the changes the House made. If they do not agree, a conference committee will go to work; three senators and three representatives will meet to try to strike a compromise.

"To allow SCANA to continue to profit on the backs of innocent people is wrong, whether that be 5 cents or 18 cents," Rep. Micah Caskey (R- Lexington) said.

Governor Henry McMaster repeatedly says he will not sign any bill into law that does not remove the nuclear entire charge on customers for, saying Wednesday: "I am not concerned about the legislator games and promises and threats and connivances, and discussions. I am not concerned. What I am concerned about, are the people of South Carolina who have paid their money and are not getting what they paid for. They need to get their money back, and they need to not pay another cent."

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