Politics & Government

PSC asks judge to refuse to block SCE&G’s rate cut

What is the Base Load Review Act and how did SCANA profit from it?

The 2007 law put South Carolina power customers on the hook for financing nuclear reactors
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The 2007 law put South Carolina power customers on the hook for financing nuclear reactors

The S.C. Public Service Commission asked a federal judge Monday to deny SCE&G’s effort to block a rate cut for its 700,000-plus electric customers.

In a 20-page filing, the PSC argues SCE&G had failed to prove a 15-percent temporary rate cut, imposed by the S.C. Legislature and approved by the PSC, would permanently damage the Cayce-based utility.

The PSC also argues the S.C. utility hasn’t yet exhausted its state remedies — including appealing to the S.C. Supreme Court — to block the cut in its electric rates, increased nine times over the past decade to pay for a failed nuclear project.

“At this point, SCE&G’s predicted loss of money arising from its reduced base rate is speculative and based solely on its not availing itself of legal remedies available to it,” the PSC said in response to SCE&G’s federal lawsuit. “(H)aving failed to exhaust its available administrative and legal remedies, SCE&G has no claim to equitable relief.”

Earlier this month, SCE&G filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block S.C. regulators from following a newly passed law that called for a temporary 15-percent cut in the bills of the utility’s electric customers.

The legal proceedings unfolded days after the S.C. Legislature passed a new law nearly wiping out the roughly $27 a month that SCE&G now charges its average customers for the failed nuclear construction project.

Attorneys representing the Public Service Commission argued that preventing enactment of the new law’s rate cut “would have an adverse consequence for ... the public interest in addressing the costly problems that have arisen” from the failed nuclear project.

In its lawsuit, SCE&G asks a judge to rule the new state law is unconstitutional and issue an injunction blocking the PSC from lowering its rates. SCE&G notes S.C. lawmakers passed a 2007 law encouraging the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion project and appointed state regulators who approved it. But, the utility complains, the state now wants to punish the utility because the project failed.

The utility also claims the rate reduction and other aspects of the new law constitute an illegal confiscation of private property and deny the utility the due process required under law.

A two-day federal court hearing on SCE&G’s motion to block the rate cut is scheduled for July 30 and 31 in Columbia.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83