Critics blame SCE&G errors, poor state law

Lexington County Chronicle
July 21, 2016

By Jerry Bellune

Critics blame S.C. Eletric & Gas’s $1.1 billion in rate hikes on state law and imprudent management.

“We have watched time and time again, rate hike after rate hike, as we suffer from being forced to subsidize this imprudent and extremely costly power plant,” said Susan Corbett of the S.C. Sierra Club.

“In both Public Service Commission hearings and in court, the Sierra Club has challenged the cost overruns. We have been denied relief in the face of such an obvious affront to citizens, making it clear that we must amend the Base Load Review Act and change the way utilities are regulated to protect ratepayers.”

Frank Knapp Jr., president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber, said state law has turned into a blank check for SCE&G and will do it for other utilities.

The law emasculated the Public Service Commission from its proper role of being able to say ‘no’ to SCE&G once it approved the initial project, he said.

“The PSC can’t even reduce the 10.5% Return on Equity the utility is seeking,” Knapp said.

That means 10.5% of every rate hike does not go to offset construction financing but is pocketed by SCE&G.

Carla Damron, executive director for the S.C. Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said the rate hikes are punishing for low income families.

“The clients we serve live on very little,” she said.

“As rates go up, they feel the consequences. They must make decisions like ‘Do I pay this power bill, or do I feed my family?’ It’s an unfair burden to place on citizens who work hard to just make ends meet.”

Knapp has been approved by the Public Service Commission to intervene in the increased costs hearings.

The Sierra Club has requested permission to intervene but there is no provision for intervening in the rate proceedings.

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