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Rate cuts in effect for customers funding failed nuke plants

August 7, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Lower rates went into effect Tuesday for South Carolina utility customers who for years have been saddled with billions of dollars in debt for a now-defunct nuclear construction project.

Starting Tuesday, customers of South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. also began seeing an average credit of more than $100 for a retroactive rate cut passed by state lawmakers earlier this year.

The changes came after a federal judge’s ruling Monday that the 15 percent cut could go into effect while the power company continues a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The cut is retroactive to April and knocks about $25 a month off the average residential customer’s bill. It’s in effect until the end of this year. SCE&G has said applying the credit for that length of time will cost it $270 million.

Attorneys for SCE&G have requested that the rate cut be halted while they appeal whether it can remain in effect during their ongoing lawsuit.

Lawmakers sought the cut after the failed construction of two new reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper, the project’s minority owner, abandoned the effort last year following the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse.

Jointly, the utilities had already sunk $9 billion into the project, which has spawned multiple lawsuits, some by shareholders in SCANA — SCE&G’s parent company — accusing the utility of misleading investors over the failing project’s viability. When it collapsed, SCE&G customers had already paid more than $2 billion toward the company’s debt in the deal.

State and federal authorities are probing the debacle. SCANA shareholders have approved a merger with Virginia-based Dominion Energy, which is offering more than $1 billion in givebacks and a 7-percent rate cut as part of its proposal.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.

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