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Dominion Energy revives S.C. ad campaign as lawmakers near decision on nuclear fiasco

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Dominion Energy's headquarters in downtown Richmond, Va. The utility is reviving an ad campaign pitching its plans to buy SCANA, the owner of South Carolina Electric & Gas. File/Ned Oliver/Times-Dispatch

Dominion Energy is coming back to South Carolina’s airwaves this week as the debate over its plans to buy SCANA Corp. comes to a head in Columbia.

Dominion, a Virginia-based utility giant, says it's reviving a marketing blitz it pulled two months ago under pressure from the S.C. State Legislature.

Lawmakers railed against the ad campaign, saying it misled ratepayers who are reeling from SCANA's failed nuclear project.

This time, Dominion is aiming to reintroduce itself. The company says its first ads will focus on initiatives to hire veterans.

It comes at a pivotal moment in the debate over South Carolina's energy future. The state Senate is on the brink of voting to cut electric rates tied to the nuclear project, at least temporarily. Utility regulators are expected to consider a similar measure.

If either follows through, Dominion has threatened to walk away. Its $14.6 billion offer to buy SCANA, the owner of South Carolina Electric & Gas, is among the biggest transactions in state history.

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Dominion's previous ads focused heavily on its pitch to South Carolina: It's offering to cut SCE&G electric rates by 7 percent, which includes savings from federal tax cuts, and give the typical home a $1,000 refund for the nuclear project. The cost of the reactors would drop from rates in two decades.

The ads didn’t mention the costs ratepayers would still foot for the project — $3.8 billion in all — and they aired in some markets where SCE&G doesn't sell electricity. That rankled politicians because as the legislative debate heated, the ads urged ratepayers to call their lawmakers.

Dominion's pitch is that its plan beats the status quo from SCE&G, which collects $37 million a month for the project, about a fifth of its electric rates. SCE&G plans to keep charging for the next half-century.

Ads along those lines could be brought back later, Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said.

"Future spots may focus on other values issues or may focus on helping customers understand our proposals," Wade said.

The marketing campaign is expected to hit airwaves later this week, but it has already begun to buy ads online. The company’s previous, multi-million dollar campaign also reached the state's newspapers and radio stations, and it included space on one billboard — right outside the Statehouse.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703. Follow him on Twitter @thadmoore.

Thad Moore is a reporter on The Post and Courier’s Watchdog and Public Service team, a native of Columbia and a graduate of the University of South Carolina. His career at the newspaper started on the business desk in 2016.

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