Politics & Government

SC environmentalists asks PSC to reconsider Dominion-SCANA merger

SCANA Shareholders speak against Dominion sale

SCANA shareholders passed sale to Dominion Energy during a vote of shareholders.
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SCANA shareholders passed sale to Dominion Energy during a vote of shareholders.

S.C. environmental groups asked the state’s power regulators Monday to reconsider their order allowing Dominion Energy to buy SCE&G’s parent company, a multibillion-dollar deal affecting 730,000 S.C. electricity customers.

Attorney Bob Guild filed the six-page petition electronically Monday with the S.C. Public Service Commission — closed for the Christmas holiday. If the PSC refuses to reconsider, the environmental groups — the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth — could appeal to the S.C. Supreme Court.

The petition asks the PSC to rehear or reconsider its order Friday giving Virginia-based Dominion the green light to buy SCANA. That order also set SCE&G’s electric rates after it abandoned its effort to build two nuclear reactors.

SCE&G customers already have paid more than $2 billion in higher power bills to pay for the reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County. If Dominion closes its deal to buy SCANA, SCE&G’s customers will pay another $2.3 billion for the failed project over the next 20 years.

“Fundamentally, we challenge the commission’s decision to award any abandoned project costs to Dominion and SCE&G,” Guild said Monday. “In other words, the evidence in this case, both legally and on a factual matter, we think overwhelmingly demonstrates SCE&G doesn’t deserve any more ratepayer compensation for the abandoned nuclear project.”

Other stakeholders, including the state’s utility regulator — the Office of Regulatory Staff, which also argued to block Dominion or SCE&G from charging ratepayers more money for the project — also could petition the PSC to reconsider its decision.

A Dominion representative could not be reached immediately to comment.

In the petition, Guild said SCE&G was reckless from the project’s start in Jenkinsville.

Conservation groups objected to the project in 2008, Guild said, a decade before SCANA and its partner in the project, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, abandoned it.

“In 2012, we came back ... with a very detailed case, demonstrating that the ‘nuclear renaissance’ was the wrong choice,” he said. “SCE&G was imprudent from the beginning venturing on this gamble.”

If Dominion moves forward with the merger, Guild said the merger conditions in the PSC’s order need to be strengthened to ensure ratepayers, particularly low-income South Carolinians, are protected.

“We argue there needs to be much tighter conditions against improper transactions and level the playing field for energy efficiency and clean energy,” Guild said, citing Dominion’s possible extension of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline into South Carolina as a particular concern. “None of those are adequate in the PSC order.”

Reporter Avery G. Wilks contributed to this story.
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Maayan Schechter (My-yawn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State, focusing primarily on the state budget and the lawmakers who decide how your tax dollars get spent. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.