Opinions mixed during hearing about failed nuclear power project
Not many people had something they wanted to say about an abandoned nuclear construction project in Fairfield County during the S.C. Public Service Commission’s hearing Monday.
More than 80 people showed up at the Aiken County Government Center, but only 12 testified before the panel, which is considering whether to approve a pending merger between Virginia-based Dominion Energy and SCANA, which is the parent company of SCE&G.
The commission also is trying to decide how much, if anything, SCE&G customers can be charged in the future to help pay for the failed venture’s billions of dollars in cost.
SCE&G and state-owned Santee Cooper were building a new generation of nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer facility.
Monday’s hearing lasted less than an hour, and the opinions expressed were mixed about the merger.
“I’m kind of against the merger,” said Eric Savage of Aiken. “We hear all the things that Dominion says about how they are going to provide (an average refund of) $1,000 to customers and better things for our community, but what about the money that people have already lost (because of rate increases)? We want to know who is standing behind the South Carolina residents who have already paid out so much? Some of them are on fixed incomes.”
Evelyn Robinson of Belvedere said she supported the merger, but wanted to see some evidence of concern by state officials “for the people” instead of just “the big companies.”
Bob Croley of Aiken described the merger as “the absolute best approach that we have available to us.”
Henry Kammer of North Augusta expressed a similar opinion.
“You can point your fingers every way you want to, but we’ve got to make the right decision, and that is to have the merger and go ahead because there is no other way out,” he said.
Chris Hall of Aiken described the situation with the abandoned nuclear project as “a fiscal nightmare.” He also complained that “rate payers have been asked to bear the burden (through rate hikes)” while SCE&G’s “senior-level executives have gone on with their highly-compensated bonuses and salaries.”
In conclusion, Hall said, “I’m opposed to this deal (the merger), and I ask the Public Service Commission and the leaders of this state’s government to stand by the people.”
Stan Ostrawski of Aiken said he would be in favor of the merger only if SCE&G customers “get all the money back” from the rate increases used to fund the failed nuclear project.
“The shareholders should have paid for this whole thing,” he declared.
Gilbert resident Benny Hunnicutt of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the merger with Dominion would “make SCANA an even better company with more resources.”
He added that Dominion “is a company with an excellent reputation and one that any person would be happy to be served by and work for.”
During his testimony, Stan Weisner of Aiken asked, “Shouldn’t the high paid executives forfeit some of their millions in salary?”
He also said it was “unfair” for SCE&G customers “to pay for poor business management.”
The Public Service Commission also held a hearing about the abandoned nuclear power project Monday in Columbia and another is scheduled for North Charleston on Oct. 15.