Formal Intervention Filed with SC Public Service Commission Concerning SCE&G’s “Abandonment Plan” for Canceled Nuclear Reactor Construction Project
COLUMBIA, S.C. – In an effort to protect ratepayers and advocate for alternative energy, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club today filed a formal intervention against a proposal from South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) to abandon its troubled nuclear construction project and charge ratepayers $2.2 billion over the next 60 years to pay for the failed project.
The plan, filed on August 1 by SCE&G with South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC), abandoned the problem-plagued V.C. Summer reactor construction project. (See Docket 2017-244-E.) The project was abruptly halted on July 31 after continuous formal opposition by Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club since 2008.
“Due to growing pressure from the public and legislators, the PSC will not be able to simply rubber stamp passing the cost onto SCE&G’s ratepayers,” said Tom Clements, senior adviser with Friends of the Earth. “We will fight this unjust plan and make sure that the company and its shareholders are put on the financial hook for the bad decisions made by SCE&G since 2008. It is simply unacceptable that SCE&G customers, who will not get any benefit after paying into the project since its inception, will now be stiffed with all of the costs while SCE&G walks away unscathed.”
The Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club intervention petition, filed by well-known South Carolina environmental lawyer Bob Guild, requests that the PSC review the imprudence of decisions related to the project, that reparations be made to SCE&G customers and that “available least cost efficiency and renewable energy alternatives,” as advocated by the groups now be pursued.
The hearing earlier granted to Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club on the project will likely now be consolidated with the abandonment docket, giving the organizations the right to review past cost overrun decisions, chronic schedule delays and repayment to customers for money wasted by SCE&G.
The abandonment petition filed by SCE&G included a suggested November date for a hearing on the matter, but in an unprecedented move late on the evening of Friday, August 4, the PSC’s chief clerk rejected the hearing dates. As pressure grows on how the PSC failed to properly monitor the project, no new dates have been set for the abandonment hearing.
The next step in the process will be for the PSC to approve the Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club intervention, which will then enable discovery to be filed for internal SCE&G documents. In particular, the groups want to learn what SCE&G knew about the bankruptcy of the reactor design company Westinghouse, filed on March 29, and if the PSC was informed by the company about what it knew.
Friends of the Earth/Sierra Club will soon file a request that the hearing it garnered in response to a complaint filed on June 22 (Docket 2017-207-E) to be merged with SCE&G’s abandonment docket. The PSC issued an order on August 2 that positions on docket consolidation be filed by FOE/Sierra Club and SCE&G within 21 days.
SCE&G ratepayers already pay 18% of their monthly bill, averaging $27 per household, to pay for the failed nuclear project. Customers have been hit with nine rate hikes since 2009 to pay for the project in advance. Under SCE&G’s abandonment plan, that percentage of the bill would be increased, to pay for $2.2 billion in abandonment costs. SCE&G has presented a pay-back period of 60 years, meaning that additional billions of dollars would be collected by SCE&G, while no costs would be assumed by SCE&G and its shareholders.
Reflective of growing concern on the political level about the failed reactor project, leaders in the South Carolina Senate on August 4 requested a special legislative session to discuss SCE&G’s failed project. The attorney general of South Carolina followed by also submitting a letter to the legislature in support of such a legislative session and requested that any additional rate hikes to pay for abandonment be delayed while an investigation is proceeding.
- FOE/Sierra Club intervention of August 7
- Notice filed by PSC clerk’s office, August 7, stipulating that interventions in the SCE&G abandonment docket must be filed by August 30, but no hearing dates set
- South Carolina Senate letter, August 4
- South Carolina attorney general letter, August 4