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      SCE&G sparking concerns over power rates

      SCE&G proposes a 4.88 percent rate hike to help pay for federally-mandated environmental changes.

      SCE&G first asked for a 9.5 percent increase to pay for federally-mandated environmental improvements, but earlier this month, the utility slashed that request by half.

      The latest rate request puts SCE&G more in line with the rate recommended by the state Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents consumers in utility cases.

      Customers had a chance to voice their concerns to the S.C. Public Service Commission over the proposal Monday at a public hearing.

      We knew about this rate increase back in 2008, says SCE&G spokesman Eric Boomhower. At the time we were already a full year into a recessionary economy and we said we had to push this back as long as we can because our customers are facing tough times right now.

      However, the message from Midlands residents is the same as it was two years ago.

      With them trying to increase this rate, it TMs going to hurt a lot of people, said Carmen Daniels.

      My thermostat is set at 85 or 87 degrees, but that doesn TMt help much, said Doris Fletcher.

      70-year-old Fletcher says she is scared to use her power because of the rising costs and her fixed income.

      The nearly 5 percent increase is in addition to a 2.5 percent jump approved last year to help pay for a new nuclear power plant.

      If approved, the utility's latest increase would be phased in over three years.

      The average bill for a household using a 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity would rise by about $5.79 a month.

      SCE&G points out that cuts have been made to help cover some of the costs related to the federally-mandated changes to its coal-fired plants and its Lake Murray backup dam.

      Officials expect a decision on the rate request by mid-July.