Four challengers are seeking seats on the state commission that regulates utilities, including a partially built, multi-billion-dollar nuclear plant project recently abandoned by two S.C. power companies.
The Public Service Commission has been under increasing criticism for approving rate hikes to pay the cost of building the reactors at Jenkinsville’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. Cayce-based SCANA and state-owned Santee Cooper abandoned that project last week.
The number of candidates — three incumbents and four challengers — seeking seats on the seven-member commission is unusual, said state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland.
Commissioners are elected by the General Assembly, and three commission seats will be up for election next year. The posts pay $108,000 a year.
The candidates are:
▪ Incumbent Elliott F. Elam Jr. of Lexington and challenger Thomas Gardiner of Aiken for the 2nd District congressional seat
▪ Incumbent Elizabeth “Lib” Fleming of Drayton, and challengers David McCraw of Greer and William “Kevin” Newman of Inman for the 4th District congressional seat
▪ Challenger Gene Gartman Jr. of Orangeburg and incumbent Nikiya “Nikki” Hall of Columbia for the 6th District congressional seat
“I’m encouraged to see competition,” Smith said. “They have a fiduciary and significant duty to the citizens of our state to make sure that ratepayers are protected and we have competitive rates in South Carolina.”
The two utilities cited billions of dollars in cost overruns in construction, decreased demand for energy and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse as their reasons for abandoning the project.
The PSC has approved nine rate hikes for the nuclear expansion, costing customers of SCANA’s SCE&G subsidiary $1.5 billion. However, a 2007 law, passed by legislators, made it more difficult for the commission to reject the rate-hike requests.
Three seats on the seven-member Public Service Commission will be up for election next year by members of the General Assembly. Commission members are paid $108,000 a year.
Incumbent Elliott F. Elam Jr. of Lexington or challenger Thomas Gardiner of Aiken
Incumbent Elizabeth “Lib” Fleming of Drayton or challengers David McCraw of Greer or William “Kevin” Newman of Inman
Challenger Gene Gartman Jr. of Orangeburg or incumbent Nikiya “Nikki” Hall of Columbia