Motion Seeks To Split V.C. Summer, Dominion Hearings
COLUMBIA, SC — Thousands of South Carolina power customers should first find out if they must spend decades paying for a failed nuclear project before Dominion Energy’s offer to buy SCANA can be accurately evaluated, according to a motion filed today with the S.C. Public Service Commission.
The two different matters – whether SCE&G can recover billions it spent on the now-abandoned nuclear units, and whether to accept Dominion’s proposal to merge with SCANA and propose new rates -- are scheduled for a single hearing before the PSC. A motion filed today seeks to split those matters into separate hearings.
“Deciding whether the Dominion deal offers any benefits before first deciding whether customers owe a single penny for SCE&G’s $5 billion hole in the ground is putting the cart before the horse,” said Will Cleveland, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Only after we know the full cost can we get a complete understanding of whether a merger with Dominion is in the customers’ best interest.”
According the motion:
“To best protect South Carolinians, it would be a far better use of judicial resources for the Commission to receive testimony, hold a hearing, and issue an order regarding the prudency of abandonment and how much SCE&G customers must pay in future decades for the V.C. Summer Units 2 & 3 before receiving testimony, holding a hearing, and issuing an order regarding the proposed business combination of SCANA Corporation and Dominion Energy, Inc.”
The motion was filed by SELC, representing the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The utilities are asking that about $4.7 billion in costs related to the abandoned nuclear units be approved as “reasonable and prudent.” Recovery of those costs from power customers is a condition of the merger.
That is a critical point because Dominion has run an aggressive public-relations campaign promising customers a large payout. But according to the fine print, not everyone gets paid. In fact, no one gets paid unless the Commission approves, without any changes, the utilities’ version of how much they are entitled to charge customers in the future.
If, however, the Commission rules that customers don’t have to pay the billions charged by the utility for the failed project, then the “refunds,” pledges of charitable giving, and other benefits offered in the Dominion merger package and publicized in an extensive marketing campaign may not materialize.
The utilities purposefully filed a combined application and want a single hearing because that allows them to hold “customer rate relief and other benefits hostage to the abandonment decision, putting undue pressure on the Commission to sign off on SCE&G’s abandonment cost calculations without thorough, independent review,” the motion states.
“The investigation into SCE&G’s management of the nuclear project should not be muddied by a focus on Dominion’s offers,” said Eddy Moore of the Coastal Conservation League. “One issue is in the past while other is in the future. These matters should be decided separately. This is too important to lump them together and rush through it.”
If the PSC does not agree to separate the cases, it should at the least fully hear the abandonment case first before later considering the merger, according to the motion.