South Carolina Lawmakers Fail to Pass Nuclear Reactor Bills
COLUMBIA, S.C. (CHRISTINA L. MYERS, AP) — South Carolina lawmakers adjourned their General Assembly session Thursday without reaching a compromise on legislation designed to tackle the issue of a failed nuclear reactor project and who would pay for it.
Lawmakers were under pressure to pass the legislation before the adjournment deadline. The Senate voted 43-0 to repeal the Base Load Review Act but removed the mandatory 18 percent rate cut for utility customers in the original House version. At 5 p.m., the session was gaveled to a close without the two sides agreeing on a bill.
The BLRA allowed South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and state-owned utility Santee Cooper to increase rates for their customers to cover the cost of two unfinished, abandoned reactors in the $9 billion V.C. Summer project.
Although legislators agreed that utility customers should not be footing the bill to cover the failed project, they couldn’t find common ground on how much consumers should pay. The House wanted to cut the entire 18 percent charge until the Public Service Commission can reset rates at the end of the year, but the Senate wanted a 13 percent cut.
“This amendment continues the opportunity to fight and protect ratepayers to do all we can do to keep rates at zero,” Republican Sen. Peter McCoy of Charleston said.
The House and Senate will take up bills related to the failed nuclear reactor project and $8 billion budget during special sessions scheduled for May 23-24 and June 27-28.
After taking up the nuclear reactor bills, the Senate voted 38-6 to ask South Carolina voters to decide whether they should continue to elect the superintendent or let the governor appoint the post. A constitutional amendment would be placed on the ballot in November.
If voters approve the amendment in the general election and the General Assembly ratifies it, the governor would begin picking the education leader in 2022 or whenever the office becomes vacant.
It would be the third office taken out of voters’ hands in recent years. Both the lieutenant governor and adjutant general are now appointed.
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