Day 1 of the PSC Hearing on SCE&G Nuclear Debacle (11-1-18)

Day 1 of the PSC Hearing on SCE&G Nuclear Debacle (11-1-18)

Below are the opening remarks by Frank Knapp on day one of the SC Public Service Commissions hearing on SCE&G’s failed nuclear project request for customers to pay up to $5 billion in abandoned construction costs and Dominion Energy’s offer to purchase SCANA/SCE&G.   Mr. Knapp, president and CEO of the SC Small Business Chamber, is a pro se intervenor in this hearing representing himself as an SCE&G ratepayer.

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Good morning Mr. Chairman, Commissioners and Mr. Butler.

I am Frank Knapp appearing before you today as a pro se intervenor.

Thank you again for affording me the opportunity to be a part of this important hearing.

The day that SCE&G announced that it was abandoning the nuclear project, I told the media that my goal was for a complete rollback of all the rate hikes under the Base Load Review Act, about 18%.

In addition, I wanted all the money ratepayers had paid under the Base Load Review Act, now about $2 billion, to be clawed back.

And these were the goals before we learned of all the deception that went into convincing the Public Service Commission to continue approving additional construction costs and schedule delays.

Here we are, almost 16 months later, these are still my goals.

But I wasn’t speaking just for myself back then or now.

Over the many months since the official abandonment of the nuclear plants, everyday ratepayers and small business owners have made it clear to me that my goals were also their goals—the elimination of all the rate hikes and return of all the money associated with this failed nuclear project.

For the ratepayers, the extra money they have been paying over the years came with a promise. SCE&G would be good stewards of their investment, make prudent management decisions, be efficient in the construction process and complete the nuclear plants that would provide abundant future energy at a somewhat fixed price.  Oh, and coal plants could be retired in favor of a technology that would reduce carbon pollution.

Instead, they got none of this promise.

What they got were 9 rate hikes for the nuclear project adding up to an 18% increase in their electric bills. And this has been on top of the 13% regular rate hikes since 2008.

Every dollar that SCE&G customers sent to the utility for this project was a dollar they didn’t have to pay for their necessities—housing, food, clothes, healthcare, school supplies, transportation—to say nothing about all the frivolous spending like eating out or entertainment.

All those extra dollars that customers were sending to SCE&G were also dollars not circulating in our local economies…they weren’t creating consumer demand for the goods and services of small businesses that often struggle with a very tiny profit margin.

And speaking of businesses, any other business that took a customer’s money and failed to deliver the product would give back the money, no question’s asked but with an apology.

That’s not what’s being offered by these utilities.

Despite the deception and poor management that resulted in us being here today, the customer is told we can’t be made whole because to do so would cause SCE&G to file for chapter 11 or that the offer by Dominion to acquire SCANA would be withdrawn.

Well, I certainly am not an expert on this but none of the Wall Street financial advisors or others steeped in utility matters that I have talked with subscribe to the bankruptcy scenario.

As for Dominion trying to set the rules for them to be the salvation for SCE&G and its customers, this Commission sets the rules and shouldn’t be bullied by an out-of-state mega-utility that, in my opinion, shouldn’t even be a part of the abandonment proceedings.

I will end by saying how much I and the public appreciate the hard work of the Office of Regulatory Staff. Its new mission is to represent the public’s interest only, and they have and are doing so impressively.

Thank you.

Frank Knapp