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Charlotte Area News

Consumer Advocate Calls SCANA Deal A 'Bad Deal For Consumers'

Construction of nuclear reactors abandoned in Fairfield County, South Carolina

As SCANA and South Carolina Electric & Gas are selling off more than a dozen properties to pay for refunds to electric ratepayers, the South Carolina Public Service Commission is expected to issue its final order Friday involving the sale of the troubled utility to Virginia-based Dominion Energy.

Last week, the PSC approved Dominion’s $15 billion buyout of SCANA, which is the parent company of SCE&G. The company had spent $9 billion in building two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, before abandoning the project last year — leaving thousands of workers unemployed.

A sizeable portion of the project was funded through customer rate increases. The deal the PSC approved will result in ratepayers’ bills dropping by an average of $22 a month, lower than the $30 consumer advocates wanted. Tom Clements, a senior advisor with Friends of the Earth says the reduced rates are not enough.

“We’re going to pay well over $2 billion additional and not get anything whatsoever out of it," Clements said, "And we think that is a bad deal for the consumers."

Dominion initially said it would lower monthly rates to the utility’s nearly one million customers and give each customer a $1000 refund.

“In the end, there will be no rebate whatsoever," Clements said. "We are still going to be stuck with the $2 billion in financing costs we’ve already paid, plus an addition $2 billion plus return on equity that we will pay for 20 years. So, [it's] somewhere around $5 billion that consumers are stuck with.” Clements said.

PSC officials have issued statements saying the deal gives consumers slightly larger, long-term rate cuts than the 15 percent reduction already in effect that the legislature approved this summer. Clements says the final document may include relief for disadvantaged customers and other items. He says they have not decided if they will appeal the deal to the South Carolina Supreme Court, but it is being considered.