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Dominion gets 1st level of approval to merge with SC utility

July 16, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Federal regulators have given the first of several levels of approval to a Virginia-based power company’s proposed merger with an embattled South Carolina utility after the failure of a multibillion-dollar nuclear project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday ruled that the combination of SCANA Corp. and Dominion Energy, Inc. “is consistent with the public interest and is authorized.”

Dominion said the merger is contingent upon approval of SCANA’s shareholders, as well as authorizations from state regulators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., a SCANA subsidiary, and state-owned utility Santee Cooper spent more than $9 billion before abandoning construction on a pair of nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Columbia last year. State and federal authorities are probing the failure, and irate customers have filed lawsuits accusing SCANA of misleading the public during the troubled project’s tenure.

Some have worried the merger could be scuttled by lawmakers’ removal of a surcharge SCE&G customers have been paying toward the company’s debt on the two unfinished reactors. SCE&G customers have paid around $2 billion toward the failed project, about $22 a month for the average user.

Lawmakers this year removed most of that charge, cutting SCE&G’s electric rates by 15 percent until the end of this year, after which regulators will set a permanent rate. Gov. Henry McMaster vetoed the bill, saying he favored cutting the entire charge. House and Senate members overrode his veto of the rate cut in just minutes.

SCE&G has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the rate cut. Dominion has offered rebates of around $1,000 to SCE&G customers, a smaller cut in rates and a promise not to raise rates for three years.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.

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