COLUMBIA — The South Carolina House is set to take up legislation this week that could replace the state's seven utility regulators while the Senate slowly begins to respond to the state's nuclear fiasco.
Four weeks after returning to Columbia, the legislative agenda continues to revolve around the cancellation of the V.C. Summer project in Fairfield County, which saddled the state with a $9 billion tab for two useless nuclear reactors.
As debate continues, lawmakers have yet to cast a vote on the most controversial topic: the repeal of the Base Load Review Act — the 2007 law that allowed Cayce-based SCANA to charge customers for the reactors before the power plants were finished.
It remains unclear whether House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, will push forward with the repeal bill this week. The speaker's office didn't answer Monday whether the legislation will be put to a vote in the coming days.
"The House has already passed two of the ratepayer protection bills and will continue to work through the legislation over the next few weeks," said Caroline Delleney, the speaker's communications director.
With Dominion Energy's proposed $14.6 billion dollar takeover of SCANA hanging in the balance, some lawmakers have grown wary about promises to halt customer payments for the abandoned reactors. Senate President Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, has publicly questioned what damage it could do to the state's business climate.
Dominion's CEO Thomas Farrell said his company would walk away from the deal if lawmakers overturn the 2007 law and cut off the $37 million that SCANA is collecting for the failed project each month. Late last week, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce came out against a repeal of the utility law, warning against the "ripple effect" it might have on the state's image on Wall Street.
It's yet to be seen whether that corporate pressure can sway enough state lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the House plans to advance legislation that is meeting less resistance. That includes changes to the state's Public Service Commission — the seven-person panel that decides how much people pay for gas, water and electricity.
A bill that would make all of the current public service commissioners reapply for their jobs is set to be taken up by the full House this week. The vote on the legislation comes nearly a month after The Post and Courier published an investigation that showed how the state's commissioners received tens of thousands of dollars in flights, meals and hotel rooms from utility-funded associations.
On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee is set to discuss the long list of utility changes sponsored in the wake of the V.C. Summer debacle for the first time.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, expects to hear testimony for and against the legislation. Massey still expects the Senate to eventually take up the bills passed by the House, which has taken the lead on the utility regulation overhaul.
Lawmakers aren't the only state officials weighing in on the nuclear boondoggle. On Wednesday, the Public Service Commission will decide whether to speed up their decision on Dominion's proposed takeover of SCANA or whether to give other groups more time to request records from SCANA.
Tom Clements, with Friends of Earth, wants more time for his group to find evidence that SCANA mishandled the nuclear project near Jenkinsville. Clements said he believes the utility commission should deny SCANA's effort to "ram its proposal through without proper review."