S.C. lawmakers Tuesday moved forward with proposals to shake up state laws and boards that enabled South Carolina’s nuclear fiasco, despite objections from a state-owned utility that one of the bills could hurt its customers.
A House panel unanimously recommended six bills. Those proposals aim to limit how much more S.C. power customers have to pay for the failed attempt by SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper to build two nuclear reactors and to patch up a state regulatory system that failed.
The proposals face a tough route to passage when the General Assembly returns to Columbia in January. Lawmakers expect legal challenges to the proposals from investor-owned SCANA, a Fortune 1000 company fighting for its life in the political maelstrom that followed the failed nuclear project.
House members Tuesday bristled at concerns that some of the proposals would hurt the state-owned Santee Cooper utility. Lawmakers are looking at sacking Santee Cooper’s directors, setting new criteria for its future directors and requiring the utility’s rate-hike requests be approved by the S.C. Public Service Commission.
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Interim Santee Cooper chief executive Jim Brogdon said those moves would hurt the utility’s credit rating, setting off a domino effect that could lead to higher interest rates for the utility and higher electricity costs for customers.
State Rep. Peter McCoy, the Charleston Republican who chairs the panel, said legislators have no intention of hurting Santee Cooper. But, he added, they cannot be blamed for offering tough solutions to problems the utility helped create.
“This isn’t something that I’ve done,” McCoy said. “This is something that the (Santee Cooper) board has done, that agreements have done.”
All six proposals — including one that would block SCANA subsidiary SCE&G from continuing to charge its customers $37 million a month for the scuttled project and another that could force SCE&G to refund the $1.7 billion it already has charged customers – were approved unanimously.