SC Senate adjourns without taking up utility rate cut
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina utility customers will have to keep waiting to see how much they could continue to pay in surcharges to fund a failed multi-billion dollar nuclear project.
The state Senate adjourned Thursday without further debate on a measure that would reduce South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. customers’ rates by 13 percent until the end of this year.
Right now, 18 percent of SCE&G customers’ bills go toward paying off the company’s failed venture to build two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. SCE&G abandoned the project last year, but its customers still pay about $27 a month toward the debt, charges that have accumulated to $2 billion over the past nine years.
Customers of state-owned utility Santee Cooper, SCE&G’s partner in the project, currently pay about $5 a month in surcharges. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has said he wants to sell Santee Cooper as a way to curb those charges and alleviate the utility’s $4 billion debt burden.
Senators approved an amendment specifying the SCE&G rate reduction during a lengthy session Wednesday night but then adjourned Thursday afternoon without taking up the measure. The chamber is off next week and doesn’t return until April 9, when senators are tasked with considering the state budget.
The House, which has moved more quickly on a package of bills related to the nuclear construction debacle, has already passed a bill removing the surcharge entirely. Lawmakers from both chambers will ultimately have to work out differences, but McMaster has said he won’t sign legislation that includes any continued charges.