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Representative Finlay files legislation to protect SCE&G electricity rate payers in future nuclear plant construction

Columbia, SC—Richland County Representative Kirkman Finlay has filed legislation (H.4022) in the South Carolina House that would better protect electricity ratepayers in future nuclear plant construction. The bill would amend the Base Load Review Act (BLRA), which enables a utility company to increase rates annually to pay for the construction financing costs when building power plants. The goal of the BLRA was to reduce the cost of nuclear plant construction.

A House Labor, Commerce and Industry subcommittee will hold a public hearing on H.4022 Tuesday, April 25th, in the Blatt Building after the House adjourns for the day.

South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) was the first to use the 2006 BLRA in the construction of two nuclear plants at its V.C. Summer Station in Fairfield County. The company has received heavy public criticism for the project, which is more than two years behind schedule and $2.5 billion over budget. Nine BLRA rate hikes have been approved raising consumer electric bills already by about 20% to pay only for the construction financing costs.

Last July the STOP THE BLANK CHECK Coalition was formed to advocate for change to the BLRA. The coalition called for the BLRA amendments in H.4022 and believes that the amendments will result in better utility accountability, responsibility as well as better regulation of profits. The Coalition’s proposed amendment regarding contractual transparency was the only amendment to not be included in the bill.

House Bill 4022 would amend the BLRA by:

  • Prohibiting a utility from using the BLRA for the construction financing costs for construction costs exceeding the Public Service Commission’s original approved costs
  • Allowing the Public Service Commission to unilaterally modify Return on Equity for revised utility rates under the BLRA
  • Putting the burden to prove prudency on construction decisions on a utility and prohibiting a utility from assigning prudency to a third party vendor

House Bill 4022 would not apply to SCE&G’s current nuclear plant construction or the financing of that project. The recent settlement approved by the SC Public Service Commission sets the parameters for the utility’s completion of those new nuclear plants at the V.C. Summer Station.

“The League of Women Voters of South Carolina applauds the work of Rep. Finlay in filing this important bill to protect South Carolina’s citizens,” said JoAnne Day, Co-President of the League. “It is fair that shareholders in the businesses that generate and distribute our electricity make a reasonable return on their investments. However, it is also fair that consumers not pay higher rates when project management decisions are not prudent and contribute to higher costs. These amendments to the Base Load Review Act will help to insure that in the future state regulators have better tools to give fair consideration to the interests of consumers.”

“The work of our Coalition laid the groundwork for the settlement with SCE&G in November that caps additional costs to ratepayers for the completion of the nuclear plants in Fairfield County,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “Now the coalition’s work on this bill will hopefully make the BLRA more consumer-friendly so that any future nuclear plant construction will not turn into a blank check for a utility.”

Members of the STOP THE BLANK CHECK Coalition are:
South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
South Carolina League of Women Voters
National Association of Social Workers-SC Chapter
Carolina Peace Resource Center
Kingdom Living Temple
New Alpha Community Development Corporation
Sustainable Midlands
The Whitney M. Slater Foundation

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