Efforts to nix South Carolina’s nuclear construction fee to ratepayers could imperil Dominion Energy’s pending offer to purchase one of the utility owners of the canceled V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project. As state legislators near the May 10 conclusion of this year’s legislative session fighting over whether to reduce the fee or cancel it altogether, lawsuits questioning the fee’s constitutionality have proceeded.
Dominion has warned that a rate reduction could cause it to halt its pending acquisition of South Carolina-based SCANA Corp. The Virginia-based utility announced an agreement in January to purchase SCANA in a deal valued at $14.6 billion. Included in Dominion’s offer were items that “would substantially reduce the cost to customers” for the abandoned nuclear project, CEO Thomas Farrell said during an April 27 earnings call.
While stating that Dominion was optimistic that it could complete the transaction “later this year,” Farrell added that the utility’s offer could not accommodate further rate cuts.
SCANA’s pending sale and the high-profile fight to cut ratepayers’ bills are the result of the July 2017 announcement by South Carolina Electric & Gas, a division of SCANA Corp., to abandon the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project.
The South Carolina Senate had supported a 13% cut in ratepayer bills. But the House roundly rejected that cut, by a vote of 104-7, in favor of an 18% reduction.
During an April 25 press conference, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) vowed to fight for cutting the fee altogether.
“It defies common sense, and it defies good faith to require the people of South Carolina to pay for something that they’re not going to get,” he said. “It’s absurd.”
The state attorney general’s office has filed a motion related to a class-action lawsuit asserting that the law enabling the nuclear construction fee is unconstitutional.