Senate votes to repeal controversial Base Load Review Act

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Senate unanimously voted to repeal the controversial law known as the 'Base Load Review Act.'

The law is blamed for the higher rates electric customers have paid since 2007 for the now-abandoned nuclear project V.C. Summer in Fairfield County.

The Base Load Review Act, which was passed in 2007, allows utility companies to charge their customers for projects that are not yet complete. That's what happened with the failed nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer. Frustrated electric customers have described the law as creating a "blank check" from them to the utilities.

Some of the senators who voted for the act back in 2007 still serve today. Minority Leader Sen. Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington) is one of them.

"My mind has changed dramatically, as it has anybody else who was here, because we never anticipated the abuse and I mean outright abuse and mismanagement by the company and what they've done to the people of South Carolina and the ratepayers in this state," Setzler said Wednesday before the vote.

However, some angered electric customers said it shouldn't have taken nearly 10 months after the nuclear fallout to pass legislation to protect ratepayers. The Base Load Review Act repeal still needs a third reading and then goes back to the House for a vote before it's official law.

Not one bill pertaining to the nuclear fiasco has become law yet this session. The regular session ends on Thursday, May 10.

"I'm very unimpressed with how much of that has been held up, stalled, or simply killed," League of Women's Voters Lobbyist Lynn Teague said.

Repealing the Base Load Review Act would not give customers any money back or lower rates. It would simply prevent a situation like V.C. Summer from hitting customers in their pocketbooks again.

Further, it could prevent an application from a utility to recover abandonment costs from being approved. It could also hold utilities to a stricter standard and make it harder to for a higher rate to be approved, because of a new definition of what is "prudent" and is justified as an allowable rate adjustment on customers.

Meanwhile, the Senate is also considered another nuclear bill that would create a consumer advocate to help utility customers in South Carolina.

There are also ongoing discussions between the Senate and House over how much to temporarily lower SCE&G rates. The Senate wants to reduce rates by 13 percent and keep a 5 percent nuclear charge, but the House wants a zero percent nuclear charge which would d rop rates by 18 percent.

Although session ends Thursday, the nuclear bills in question have an extension so they do not die when lawmakers leave for the summer. They will return in late May and June to continue working on them.

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