Dominion Energy’s potential purchase of S.C. utility would come with expensive strings attached

This September 2016 photo shows construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant prior to the project crumbling. (© Tim Dominick/Post&Courier)

The Dominion Energy purchase of the South Carolina utility SCANA, announced recently, would still force South Carolina power customers to pay for a nuclear plant that will never produce power, and the acquisition will likely be a springboard to driving Dominion’s controversial, unneeded and woefully expensive Atlantic Coast Pipeline into the Palmetto State.

“This is a case of meet your new boss, same as the old boss,” said SELC attorney Gudrun Thompson. “This is a for-profit company thinking it can throw a little cash at South Carolina customers now, hoping they won’t notice they’re signing on for decades of payouts for a power plant that won’t power a single light bulb. This is the time for lawmakers to step in and ensure real, lasting protections from this kind of monopoly abuse.”

Dominion Energy has run into the same kinds of financial and environmental stewardship problems that stoked the nuclear fiasco for South Carolina customers.

  • Dominion – routinely among Virginia’s biggest political donors – shoved through a 2015 law that prevented rate reviews, leading the utility to keep hundreds of millions of dollars that would have otherwise been refunded to customers.
  • Dominion, as a for-profit company, has been given authority to take private property along the path of its $5.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Even though experts say the pipeline is unneeded, Dominion has exploited regulatory loopholes to shift all risk to customers, ensuring profits from building the pipeline regardless of how much gas gets used.
  • A Dominion executive told an industry group the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would eventually head into South Carolina. That means Virginians and North Carolinians are surrendering their land to serve customers in another state and, judging from history, South Carolinians should be prepared to give up their land as well.
  • Unlike South Carolina utilities, Dominion is fighting to keep its toxic coal ash in the ground, buried in and below the water table. A federal judge ruled that violated the Clean Water Act because it polluted a nearby Virginia river, but Dominion is appealing.

“Dominion’s actions in Virginia and North Carolina should set off alarms for South Carolina leaders,” Thompson said. “Dominion is planning to bore holes through mountains, and dig risky tunnels under lakes, streams, and reservoirs to make more pipeline profits. Dominion is in the business of serving itself first and customers second, and South Carolina should pay attention to that.”

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