SC Judge Says Utility Can Challenge Rate Cut

A publicity photograph from SCE&G showing V. C. Summer Nuclear Station Unit 1.

(CN) — A federal judge in South Carolina on Thursday declined to dismiss a lawsuit by a private utility that wants to stop a temporary rate cut for customers after the failure of a now abandoned nuclear reactor project.

The 15 percent rate cut, retroactive to April, is set to begin next Tuesday.

But in a 20-page ruling, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs said South Carolina Electric & Gas bills has a right to sue to block the rate cut from taking effect.

In its underlying lawsuit, the utility claims the South Carolina General Assembly did not follow a 2007 state law that should have allowed it to increase rates to pay for the two nuclear reactors then being built north of the state capitol.

SCE&G and a minority partner, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, abandoned the project in July 2017, after it fell more than $8 billion in debt.

But the utility claims the 2007 law gives it the right to continue charging rate payers for the project even if the reactors weren’t finished.

State lawmakers scrubbed  the law earlier this year and also passed a temporary rate cut to end almost all the rate increases passed to pay for the plants.

Lawyers for the state House and Senate, and the Public Service Commission, asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

In the end, Childs said, the state’s arguments were unconvincing.

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