Author: TOM BARTON firstname.lastname@example.org August 06, 2018 04:20 PM
Power bills will fall for some 727,000-plus S.C. electric customers starting this month after a federal judge allowed a temporary rate cut to take effect Tuesday, scoring a major victory for S.C. lawmakers and ratepayers. U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs on Monday denied SCE&G’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block a new state law, forcing the utility to cut its customers’ rates, from going into effect.
Childs ruled SCE&G was unlikely to win its lawsuit to block the new law and was not entitled to money it has collected since it abandoned construction of two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County in July 2017. Childs’ order came after a two-day hearing last week on SCE&G’s lawsuit to block laws passed at the end of June that sought to provide relief to ratepayers left on the hook for the failed nuclear expansion project.
In a statement, SCE&G’s parent company left open the possibility of appealing Childs’ decision. “We will review the court’s order and decide quickly whether to appeal the decision,” Cayce-based SCANA said in a statement sent to investors. “In the meantime, the company will strive to offset the operational impact of the temporary rate reduction by continuing to cut costs and delaying spending without sacrificing safety and reliability.”
S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas said the court’s decision “demonstrates the judicial system’s impartiality in prioritizing the interests of honest and hard-working South Carolinians over SCANA’s corporate greed.” Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, also applauded Childs’ ruling. “SCANA misled state regulators for years while the executives fattened their wallets at our expense,” Leatherman said in a statement. “I am hopeful that we can now move forward from this point to hold the SCANA executives fully accountable and provide rate relief to the customers who did nothing wrong and will receive no benefit from this debacle.”
Childs’ decision was announced after the stock market closed Monday. However, in after-market trading, SCANA’s stock price plummeted after the ruling, losing 4.9 percent of its value.
Dominion Energy, the Virginia-based utility that has a deal to buy the embattled utility, said it remains convinced that its buyout “proposal is the best opportunity for SCE&G customers to get the most amount of benefit and with the greatest certainty.”
Dominion’s proposed buyout of SCANA includes a refund of $1,000 for each household served by SCE&G, on average and cuts electric rates by $10 a month.
“We are going to continue to work in that direction,” Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said. “We believe what we put on the table is the best option for them (SCE&G customers). We are going to keep moving forward on our own tract.”
The temporary rate cuts begin with the billing cycle that starts Tuesday. The rate cuts will be calculated based on each customer’s electricity usage back to April and will continue until December, when the PSC is set to rule on SCE&G’s permanent rates.
SCE&G residential customers would see a more than $22-a-month reduction in their power bill, on average.