S.C. leaders said there is still more to be resolved despite Virginia-based Dominion Energy’s multibillion-dollar buyout of Cayce-based SCANA Corp., a deal that would cut electric rates for SCE&G’s power customers after its failed nuclear expansion project.
Dominion said Wednesday it will acquire SCANA in a $14.6 billion deal that includes $1.3 billion in refunds to SCE&G customers.
Dominion pledged cash payments of about $1,000 a household to customers of SCANA’s SCE&G subsidiary. Dominion also promised to cut electric rates by $7 a month and put a quicker stop to any continuing charges to customers for SCANA’s failed Fairfield County project.
Subject to regulatory approvals, the deal would leave SCANA as a subsidiary of Richmond-based Dominion.
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Here is how S.C. leaders are reacting:
Gov. Henry McMaster
“We are making progress. Under the proposed agreement between SCANA and Dominion Energy, SCE&G ratepayers will get most of the money back they paid for the nuclear reactors and will no longer face paying billions for this nuclear collapse. But this doesn't resolve the issue. Over seven hundred thousand electric cooperative customers face the prospect of having their power bills sky rocket for decades to pay off Santee Cooper's $4 billion in debt from this. The only way to resolve this travesty is to sell Santee Cooper. There is more work to be done, but today, we are headed in the right direction.”
State Treasurer Curtis Loftis
“There is a great deal of work to be done on this proposed transaction before SC should ‘jump on this bandwagon.’ This deal must clear the state regulators who must understand the true implications of this purchase, not just the headlines. Splashy numbers and golden promises may not satisfy the needs of South Carolina.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence
“I look forward to getting a briefing from the Dominion team to learn more about the details of their plan. My ultimate goal is to protect ratepayers in South Carolina and as far as possible to keep them from paying for nuclear reactors that will probably never be built. At the end of the day we have to do what is best for ratepayers and puts South Carolina in a strong position for future economic development.”
House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington
“Dominion Energy’s proposal to acquire SCANA is an interesting starting point. However, I believe more can be done to provide ratepayers with the relief and protections they deserve. As negotiations continue, the House will press forward with certain provisions in our ratepayer protection package to increase safeguards so that SCE&G consumers no longer feel the burden of the VC Summer collapse.”
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield
“This is a better deal for customers than anything that SCE&G has proposed so far,” said Massey, who co-chaired a state Senate committee investigating the V.C. Summer debacle. “We’ve just seen the bullet points so far. We need to see the specific details.”
Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington
“The ratepayers are going to get money back, which is a huge plus,” said Setzler, who co-chaired a state Senate committee investigating V.C. Summer. “They are going to maintain a South Carolina headquarters, which is clearly important. Those people that committed their lives to that company and built it are going to be taken care of, which is important.”
State Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg
“I will not let Dominion Energy deliver the second kick of the mule to SC ratepayers. This only confirms that BLRA (Base Load Review Act) must die.”
Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, SCANA’s home county
“The proposed Dominion and SCANA merger seems to be a step in the right direction for customers and for South Carolina. We still need to study the details and keep focus on regulatory reform.”
Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield, where the V.C. Summer site is located
“(Fairfield County) has been a faithful partner with SCANA and nuclear since the 1980s. Over the last 10 years, we’ve moved heaven and earth to assist SCANA in building two nuclear reactors. There’s nothing in this sale that reaches an olive branch out to Fairfield County. The reduction of future rates by $7, I think it’s very small and it’s not acceptable. But, at least it’s an offer. The $1,000 payoff, to try to turn public opinion, is at least a gesture made. But, there’s nothing in this that addresses any compensation for Fairfield County.”
“South Carolina moved heaven and earth to get BMW here with 1,800 jobs. We moved heaven and earth to get Boeing to come here with a billion-dollar investment and 3,000 jobs. But, this is a $9.5 billion investment of which more than 5,000 people just lost their jobs. This is the biggest fiasco in the state of South Carolina. I don’t know if this by itself is the solution. I’m all for exploring the sale of Santee Cooper but you need to look at the details of the sale and what are the long-term economic benefits.”
State Rep. James Smith, D-Richland
"While there are some promising elements for ratepayers in the @DominionEnergy @scegnews merger, the details need to be vetted. There remains the need for reform that will protect ratepayers, ensure (competitive) rates to strengthen our economy & reform BLRA, ORS, PSC to work for SC,” said the Democrat, who is seeking his party’s nomination for governor.
"As governor, I will establish a cabinet level energy office, that will carve South Carolina’s energy future for herself. I will ensure our ratepayers have access to lower cost alternatives, solar power, efficiency programs, a secure stable base load and ensure rate transparency."
State Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston
“It is imperative that the ratepayer be put first and foremost,” wrote McCoy, chair of a special S.C. House committee that investigated the nuclear debacle. “This sale will obviously have an impact on the legislation we have been working on for months. I will continue to study the details of this deal over the next few days.”
State Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun
“Could someone please tell me what part of ‘customers shouldn’t continue paying for this failed project’ is hard to understand?” asked Ott, vice chair of the House investigatory committee.
State Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland
"$1,000 sounds great to start, but what about the rest of the money for these holes in the ground? Let's see the details so we know who's really getting a benefit — corporate execs or the ratepayers"
State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland
Finlay called Dominion’s bid an “interesting proposal” but said lawmakers’ job is to make sure customers aren’t paying for nuclear reactors that won’t be built.
“That forces us to ask additional questions: What are the ratepayers paying, and what are they getting for what they’re paying?”
State Rep. Micah Caskey, R-Lexington
“We’ve been duped by glossy corporate paperwork before, so it will take some time to read all of their filings. This looks like it’s a better deal for South Carolinians, but is it the best deal for South Carolinians?”
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort
"I am reserving judgment on this announcement until I know what it is. The people of South Carolina got burned by the Legislature in 2007 with the BLRA and we can't let something like that happen again."
State Rep. Gary Clary, R-Pickens
“Yep, the devil is always in the details. We have to ensure the General Assembly doesn’t make another mistake in 2018 like the whopper in 2007. #BLRA (Base Load Review Act) speed is not always a good thing. Take a breath and study the deal.”
Dominion Energy chief executive Thomas Farrell
“We believe this merger will provide significant benefits to SCE&G’s customers, SCANA’s shareholders and the communities SCANA serves. It would lock in significant and immediate savings for SCE&G customers – including what we believe is the largest utility customer cash refund in history – and guarantee a rapidly declining impact from the V.C. Summer project. ...
“We will seek the approval of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina for the immediate customer payments, rate refunds over time and other conditions related to resolution of the V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 situation. We believe it is in the best interests of all parties to reach an agreement on this critical issue. Having certainty on this issue can act as a catalyst for economic development and it is essential for the Dominion Energy-SCANA merger to move forward. The availability, reliability and cost of energy are often the deciding factors when businesses consider investing – and we want businesses to have every reason to continue investing in SCANA’s communities.”
“Dominion Energy is a strong, well-regarded company in the utility industry and its commitment to customers and communities aligns well with our values. Joining with Dominion Energy strengthens our company and provides resources that will enable us to once again focus on our core operations and best serve our customers.”
Mike Couick, chief executive of the Electric Cooperatives of S.C.
Couick said the state’s 20 electric cooperatives — who buy electricity from the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, SCANA’s junior partner in the V.C. Summer expansion — want to learn how the deal will affect their working relationship with SCE&G.
Also, he asked, “How do we get similar ratepayer relief out of Santee Cooper?”