The powerful S.C. Chamber of Commerce said Thursday it opposes state lawmakers’ plans to retroactively repeal a controversial law that allows SCE&G to continue charging its customers for a failed nuclear project.
Instead, it wants legislators “to slow down.”
S.C. House proposals — to slash SCE&G’s power bills and refund some of the $1.8 billion the utility’s customers have paid for two unfinished nuclear reactors — would chill business investment in the state, the group’s president warned lawmakers in a Thursday letter.
The letter could further complicate State House discussions about whether to force Cayce-based SCE&G to stop charging its 700,000 electric customers about $37 million a month for the failed V.C. Summer expansion project, which the utility abandoned last July.
The House is expected to make that move by passing a retroactive repeal of the 2007 Base Load Review Act, something that could happen as early as next week. The repeal then would be debated by the slower-moving Senate, which also has proposed rolling back the 10-year-old law that enabled the doomed nuclear venture.
That repeal was endorsed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who threatened to veto any bill that allows SCE&G to keep charging its customers for the reactors. The average SCE&G customer now pays about $27 a month in higher bills for the project.
In his Thursday letter to House members, chamber president Ted Pitts worries that repealing the law could do more harm than good.
Repeal, along with another House bill that could force SCE&G to refund some of the $1.8 billion it already has collected from customers, “would contribute to an already unstable state regulatory environment” and, ultimately, could increase costs for S.C. power customers, Pitts wrote.
“The perception of South Carolina’s regulatory environment as a risky place in which to invest is a threat to jobs and continued growth,” he added.
The business group’s opinion carries weight in a state that prides itself on its business-friendly reputation. Last year, the chamber’s endorsement gave the GOP-controlled Legislature political cover to pass a controversial gas-tax hike to pay for road repairs.
In a Wednesday interview with The State’s editorial board, Pitts said his group was “asking the General Assembly to slow down.”
The state’s business community isn’t happy with higher power bills, but it needs a stable regulatory environment and reliable energy, Pitts said. He added the chamber is OK with changing the 2007 law so it can’t be applied to future projects.
“Most businesses are mad, but they want to look forward,” Pitts said.
Efforts to reach House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, for comment late Thursday were unsuccessful.