SCE&G on Wednesday asked the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency order to halt a temporary 15-percent cut to S.C. electric rates that went into effect Tuesday, pending its appeal of a lower court’s ruling against the utility.
The appeal will be assigned to a three-judge panel. Responses to SCE&G’s motion are due next Wednesday, according to the court.
A U.S. District Court judge Monday allowed the temporary cut to SCE&G’s electric rates to take effect, scoring a victory for S.C. lawmakers and some 727,000-plus S.C. electric customers.
The S.C. General Assembly approved the rate cut after SCE&G abandoned its $9 billion, decadelong effort to build two new nuclear reactors at Fairfield County’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, a project that SCE&G’s customers have paid more than $2 billion to finance.
The average SCE&G residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity could see more than $110 taken off their electric bill this month because of the lower rates and a one-time credit for past electricity use.
Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs denied SCE&G’s motion for a temporary stay barring the rate cuts until it could appeal her Monday ruling to the 4th Circuit Court. In her decision, Childs said SCE&G was unlikely to win its lawsuit challenging the state’s ability to cut its rates.
SCE&G argued it has the right to charge its customers for the failed V.C. Summer expansion project under a 2007 law, even after it abandoned trying to finish the two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County a year ago.
The utility claims S.C. lawmakers unconstitutionally targeted it to punish it for the project’s failure by passing a retroactive rate cut. That cut, it argues, constitutes an illegal confiscation of private property and denies the utility the due process required under law.
Childs, however, said SCE&G is not entitled to rate increases. She argued SCE&G’s right to recover its costs for the unfinished V.C. Summer reactors will be decided in December by the S.C. Public Service Commission, when it rules on whether the utility’s decision to abandon the nuclear project was prudent.