Energy Policy Continues to Dominate State House Debate

The 2018 Legislative Session is now past the halfway mark. We began the year assuming the abandonment of VC Summer Nuclear project would dominate the agenda and so far, that prediction has been correct.

After a furlough last week, the House returned to Columbia on Tuesday. One of the first items debated was the Public Service Authority Bill (H.4376), which dismisses all of the current Santee Cooper board members and allows the Governor to select 12 new members. The legislation also sets up a new committee to study ways Santee Cooper can reduce costs and publicly vet potential purchase offers for the state-owned utility. The bill does not prevent Santee Cooper from requesting future rate increases. It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and now goes to Senate.

The Senate was on furlough this week, but they were hard at work last week debating amendments to the Public Service Commission Ruling Delay (S.954) made by the House. You may recall that the PSC Ruling Delay (S.954) would delay the Public Service Commission (PSC) from ruling on a potential merger between SCANA and Virginia-based Dominion Energy until December. The intent is to give the legislature and PSC time to review all options regarding the possible purchase of SCANA.

The House’s amendment would set an experimental rate for SCE&G, lowering bills by 18%. Last week, the Senate received results of a study they commissioned to evaluate the financial health of SCANA (SCE&G’s Parent Company). The study estimated that a 13% rate reduction would not force the utility into bankruptcy. The Senate amended the rate reduction inserted by the House down to 13%. The Senate did not give the bill a final vote, which delays sending it back to the House. This bill is likely bound for a conference committee.

In other news, military supporters notched a victory when the House amended the Offshore Wind Resources Provisions Bill (H.4304), which allows utilities to study offshore wind energy generation. Because portions of the South Carolina coast are designated Military Operating Areas for aviation training, the South Carolina Military Base Task Force (Charleston Chamber staff serve on the Executive Committee) voiced concerns that the magnetic field created by wind turbines could have a negative effect on aviation equipment used in training and thus jeopardize those training missions.

Thankfully, the House amended the bill to exempt Military Operating Areas from offshore wind generation. This revised, military-friendly version of the bill passed by a vote of 104-1 and now moves to the Senate.

Next week, the Senate begins budget deliberations on Monday. As always, your Chamber advocacy team will be in the middle of the debate and will keep you up to date.

Have a great weekend!

George Ramsey,
CMCC Business Lobbyist

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