COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - WIS has learned that about a week before lawmakers passed a bill giving SCE&G customers a temporary rate cut, Dominion approached lawmakers with a deal to try and kill the bill.
For months, Dominion has been promoting its plan to give refunds of about $1,000, if the merger with SCANA goes through.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey tells WIS, the new deal increased the refund to a little more than $1,500 ... but there was a catch. Actually, a couple of them.
Massey says Dominion wanted lawmakers to publicly support the new offer, hoping it would lead to favorable consideration of the merger from the SC Public Service Commission.
According to Massey, the offer was also contingent upon killing the bill that mandated the temporary rate cut. That legislation also has provisions that could limit the utility's ability to collect abandonment costs for the V.C. Summer project. In other words that bill, which is now state law, could permanently lower rates.
Chet Wade, the Vice-President for Corporate Communications, says Dominion facilitated the discussions with lawmakers in an effort to avoid lengthy litigation.
SCANA issued a statement to WIS saying it 'supported discussions with representatives of Dominion and legislative leaders regarding potentially enhancing the benefits that would be provided to customers upon approval of the combination with Dominion. Unfortunately, those discussions were not successful.' The SCANA statement goes on to say 'We continue to believe that the proposed combination of SCANA and Dominion Energy represents the best opportunity for providing immediate, long-term financial relief to customers.'
While it was Dominion executives who approached lawmakers, Senator Massey says it was SCANA that put up an extra $300 million to 'sweeten' the deal:
- $264 million from a cut in dividends
- $36 million from the anticipated rebate for the state (which is also an SCE&G customer)
All that money would have been directed to refunds for residential customers, making the average refund a little more than $1,500 dollars.
Senator Massey says he could not support the new offer because, in the long run, customers were still going to keep paying for V.C. Summer.
Ultimately, lawmakers passed a bill that cuts rates by nearly 15%. That rate reduction is set to show up on customer bills in August, but SCANA has filed a legal challenge that could put the rate cut on hold. A federal hearing is scheduled in Columbia at the end of July.