Like a song on repeat, energy dominates the debate

Like a song on repeat, energy issues dominated again at the State House. This week the South Carolina Senate debated changes to the Public Service Commission (PSC) Ruling Delay bill (S.954).

You may recall this measure originally would put the brakes on the S.C. PSC ruling on a potential merger between SCANA (SCE&G’s Parent Company) and Virginia-based Dominion Energy until December. The delay was intended to give PSC and the Office of Regulatory Staff time to fully vet the merger.

Several weeks ago, the House amended the bill to include an experimental rate that would lower SCANA customers’ bills by 18%, roughly the amount of residential customers’ monthly bill that goes toward the abandoned VC Summer nuclear project. The House-amended bill was sent back to the Senate for debate.

Around the same time, the Senate received the Bates-White report which analyzed SCANA’s financials and determined that a 13% rate reduction would not drive SCANA into bankruptcy and could also withstand an expected legal challenge. The Senate amended the bill to include a 13% rate reduction but did not immediately give the bill a final vote, which delayed sending it back to the House.

On Wednesday, the Senate debated the bill all afternoon, going through dozens of amendments, most of which ended up being tabled or withdrawn. The Senate then voted to send the bill containing a 13% rate reduction back to the House.

What now?

Most in the House are pleased with the progress, but House leaders have said they will stand firm on demanding the 18% rate reduction. This conflict will likely send the bill to a conference committee where three House members and three Senators would try and come to a resolution. It’s also worth noting that Governor McMaster has threatened to veto the legislation if it does not include the full 18% rate reduction.

Why does this back and forth matter?

The outcome of the PSC Ruling Delay (S.954), and any utility rate reduction it includes, has major implications for SCANA’s financial viability the potential SCANA-Dominion merger. Also, resetting rates with the VC Summer debt still looming could cause other energy companies to reconsider their South Carolina ambitions.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be an interesting final three weeks of session. As always, we will keep you up to date.

Have a great weekend.

George Ramsey,
CMCC Business Lobbyist

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