SC Senate votes to repeal nuclear plant law
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- The Latest on two nuclear reactors abandoned during construction in South Carolina (all times local):
South Carolina senators have tentatively approved a bill to repeal a law that critics say led to the multibillion abandonment of two nuclear plants after 10 years of planning and construction.
The repeal of the Base Load Review Act faces a final key vote Thursday on the final day of the 2018 legislative session.
The law allowed utilities to charge ratepayers for the nuclear plants before they ever generated a watt of power. Nine different rate increases were passed during the 10 years of planning and construction on the reactors.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey says the public deserves assurance nothing like this can happen again.
The Senate also passed a bill allowing the consumer advocate at the state Department of Consumer Affairs to work on behalf of ratepayers before regulators.
Officials at South Carolina's state-owned utility say they paid nearly $9 million in performance bonuses to executives of a private utility for two nuclear reactors that were never finished.
Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore says the public utility refused to pay a final $3.2 million that SCANA Corp. billed them for in August, a month after construction on the reactors was abandoned.
Gore says some Santee Cooper executives did not want to pay the bonuses, but former CEO Lonnie Cooper decided it was part of the deal to pay 45 percent of the costs for the project since Santee Cooper owned 45 percent of the reactors.
The bonuses were paid for five years starting in 2011.
SCANA did not respond to an email seeking comment.
South Carolina's state owned utility paid at least $5 million in performance bonuses to executives of a private utility for two nuclear reactors that were never finished.
Emails released by Gov. Henry McMaster's office show SCANA Corp. even billed taxpayer-supported Santee Cooper $3.2 million for bonuses in August, a month after the utilities abandoned 10 years of construction and planning for the reactors.
It wasn't clear if that money was ever paid. Santee Cooper and SCANA officials didn't answer requests for comment.
In the emails, one Santee Cooper executive said former CEO Lonnie Cooper did not want to get involved in the details of the bonus program.
Santee Cooper was paying 45 percent of the bonuses starting in 2009 because it had 45 percent ownership of the reactors.
Santee Cooper is $8 billion in debt after the abandoning of the reactors.
South Carolina lawmakers are making a last-minute push to pass legislation that requires SCANA and state-owned Santee Cooper to preserve equipment purchased for the failed V.C. Summer Nuclear reactors project.
Members of a Senate subcommittee voted Wednesday for the bill to allow the utility companies to recover part of the $9 billion lost on the project. That could reduce the amount the utilities would need to charge ratepayers.
Supporters say the utilities can get the highest return on investment if they sell the parts to other utilities. They say selling the equipment will not recover the full $1.6 billion equipment value.
Democratic Sen. Mike Fanning of Great Falls said there will be no assets to recover if the General Assembly fails to pass the legislation.
The legislative session ends Thursday.