[image-1] A federal judge is allowing a temporary electric rate cut to go through after ruling that SCE&G, the private utility that owns a majority stake in the $9 billion nuclear boondoggle in Fairfield County, is unlikely to win its challenge against the state’s Public Service Commission.
In a court order issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs ruled that “SCE&G has not established that it is clearly likely to succeed on the merits of its claims.”
The lawsuit was filed on June 29, one day after the state House and Senate decided to temporarily cut SCE&G’s rates by 15 percent.
The average SCE&G customer pays 18 percent of their monthly bill, or about $27 a month, for the V.C. Summer nuclear project. The rate cut, which goes into effect on Tuesday, will drop that down to about $5 a month, according to the Post & Courier.
The cut will retroactively cover the extra charges starting from April 1, but will only last until Dec. 21, when the Public Service Commission is expected to hand down a decision on how much SCE&G can charge customers for the reactor project, which never produced any electricity. This month, customers can also expect a rebate on energy costs incurred from April to July.
In continuing to charge for the scuttled project, SCE&G argued, in part, that they were just following the Base Load Review Act, the now-repealed 2007 law that allowed utilities to charge ratepayers for unfinished work “so long as the plant is constructed or being constructed in accordance with the approved schedules, estimates, and projections.”
Reports have also unearthed possible misleading claims by high-level executives at SCE&G about the actual health of the project, which cost $9 billion and was overrun with delays and mismanagement before it was shut down last summer.
According to the Post & Courier, SCE&G’s parent company SCANA paid $529.2 million in dividends to shareholders between 2009 and 2017 with money collected from rate increases meant for the reactors that never produced any electricity.
Last week, SCANA shareholders voted to move forward with plans to merge the company with Virginia-based Dominion Energy, a transaction that has grown controversial itself.
SCE&G customers have so far paid about $2 billion for the project. Customers of Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility that holds a 45 percent stake in the project, have shelled out about $530 million, according to The State.