Federal regulators give blessing to utility merger plan
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A deal to merge troubled South Carolina utility SCANA with Dominion Energy cleared another hurdle this week, moving a step closer to an agreement that could mean more than a billion dollars in rebates for utility customers.
Dominion announced on Tuesday that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had approved the indirect transfer of the operating license for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station from SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. to the Virginia-based company.
SCANA suddenly needed a buyer after spending $5 billion on a pair of reactors abandoned a year ago at V.C. Summer. Thousands of people were left jobless in the debacle, which has spawned more than a dozen lawsuits and followed the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse.
Dominion is offering more than $1 billion in rebates to SCE&G customers in the deal, which would also cut rates by about 7 percent.
SCANA shareholders voted in July to approve the deal, which gives Dominion more of a foothold in South Carolina. It’s gotten blessings from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Georgia state regulators and still needs approvals from the public service commissions of North and South Carolina.
SCE&G customers have gotten some relief following paying out more than $2 billion toward the now-defunct project over the past decade. Last month, lower temporary rates passed by state lawmakers went into effect until the end of the year, knocking about $25 a month off the average residential customer’s bill. Along with credits retroactive to April, SCE&G has said the cuts time will cost it $270 million.
Santee Cooper, the minority owner of the V.C. Summer project, spent about $4 billion on the reactors. A committee of lawmakers on Wednesday continued to hear information about the utility as they consider whether to try to sell its utility’s holdings. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has been pushing for such a sale since the project’s failure, calling it a way for Santee Cooper to pay its nuclear debt and protect customers, although some lawmakers are unsure if that would be possible.