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Local SC senators ask for legislature to reconvene, bar hike in power rates

Posted: August 8, 2017 - 11:46pm
Two Senate leaders have asked for the General Assembly to reconvene to discuss the construction abandonment at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.
Two Senate leaders have asked for the General Assembly to reconvene to discuss the construction abandonment at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

Two South Carolina Senate leaders from the North Augusta area have asked that the General Assembly be called back into session to take steps to prevent any electricity rate increases by SCE&G and Santee Cooper until legislators have time to act in the 2018 legislative session.

But as of Sunday, House Speaker Jay Lucas said he wasn't ready to call lawmakers back for a special session to deal with the abandonment of two nuclear reactors under construction.

Lucas said the proposal by Republican Sen. Shane Massey, of Edgefield, who is Senate majority leader, and Democratic Sen. Nikki Setzler, of West Columbia, minority leader, was impulsive and would have unintended consequences and lead to higher rates.

Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas decided last week to stop construction on the reactors at the V.C. Summer site near Jenkinsville, in Fairfield County, after spending billions of dollars because of cost overruns.

Lucas said he was carefully monitoring the situation and wouldn't hesitate to call a special session if he thought it is needed to protect taxpayers.

Massey and Setzler wrote a letter Friday to Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman, expressing concern that "Santee Cooper and/or the Public Service Commission, at SCANA's request, might increase power bills yet again" before a joint House-Senate review committee can start its work.

"The decision resulted in some 6,000 jobs being lost immediately, impacting families throughout the Midlands and economic development statewide," the senators wrote. "It has been indicated that SCANA and electric cooperative customers could be stuck with the substantial rates they have been paying to finance construction of the project and required to pay even more for the utilities to recover their losses.

"We believe South Carolinians should have an opportunity to evaluate the facts, corporate responsibility and the state's energy policy before the utilities seek additional increases," they wrote. "Therefore, we ask that you and Speaker (Jay) Lucas reconvene the General Assembly to consider a joint resolution suspending the authority of Santee Cooper and the Public Service Commission to act on the V.C. Summer project or authorize electricity increases until the legislature has a chance to act in the 2018 session."

At press time, Leather-man had not responded to the letter.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

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