Politics & Government

Santee Cooper wants $351 million cut from Dominion’s proposed purchase of SCANA

New Santee Cooper interim CEO Jim Brogdon discusses possible sale of the utility

New Santee Cooper interim CEO Jim Brogdon discusses possible sale of the utility.
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New Santee Cooper interim CEO Jim Brogdon discusses possible sale of the utility.

If Virginia-based Dominion Energy gets the state’s OK to purchase SCANA, making refunds to its S.C. electric customers who paid $2 billion for a failed nuclear project, Santee Cooper wants a cut, too.

In a Friday afternoon filing, the state-owned minority partner in SCANA’s $9 billion V.C. Summer expansion project asked the S.C. Public Service Commission to require that Dominion and SCANA set aside $351 million for Santee Cooper.

The money would go for refunds or lower power bills for the roughly 2 million South Carolinians who rely on Santee Cooper’s electricity, either directly or through a co-op, Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said Friday.

In the filing, Santee Cooper argues the PSC can approve SCANA’s purchase only if it serves the public interest of South Carolina. But, currently, Dominion’s buyout proposal takes care of only customers of SCANA subsidiary SCE&G, Santee Cooper’s attorneys wrote.

Meanwhile, those attorneys wrote, SCE&G has completely abandoned the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project, shifting the costs of preserving the construction site and maintaining the equipment there solely to Santee Cooper.

That has cost the state-owned utility $39 million since the two companies halted the project in July 2017 and will cost another $16 million a year going forward, the agency’s attorneys wrote.

As it stands, Santee Cooper’s attorneys wrote, the Dominion offer “ignored the fact that” energy customers across the state are “negatively affected by SCE&G’s decision to abandon the facility.”

Spokesmen from Dominion and SCE&G said they had not had a chance to review the filing and would not comment.

The filing comes less than a week before the PSC begins a month-long hearing to consider Dominion’s offer to buy SCANA. The commission also will set new electric rates for SCE&G.

In its filing, Santee Cooper says any Dominion buyout proposal should include a “public interest fund” for Santee Cooper’s customers.

“Santee Cooper now stands alone in its efforts to preserve value from property associated with the project — property that is partially owned by the people of South Carolina,” the agency wrote.

In January 2018, Dominion reached a tentative deal to buy SCANA. Dominion has suggested treating SCE&G’s customers one of two ways — either cutting their electric rates and paying them refunds or offering them bigger rate cuts. The refund proposal includes a $1,000 check for each SCE&G’s electric customer. The $1.3 billion in refunds would pay back nearly two-thirds of the $2 billion those customers have paid, in higher rates, for the failed nuclear project over the past decade.

Santee Cooper wants Dominion also to refund two-thirds of the $540 million that its customers so far have paid for the nuclear project. That works out to about $351 million.

That money should be in addition to the $1.3 billion in refunds Dominion has proposed for SCE&G’s 700,000-plus electric customers and should not be “at the expense of or funded by SCE&G ratepayers,” Santee Cooper wrote.

Reach Wilks at 803-771-8362. Follow him on Twitter @AveryGWilks.