TALLY SHEET:  House members pressing full steam ahead on utilities

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Staff reports  |   The House Judiciary Committee will meet Tuesday to debate a packet of subcommittee-approved bills that seek to rein in electric utilities and overhaul utility regulations.

Committees generally don’t do a lot of heavy lifting between legislative sessions.  But after two utilities, SCE&G and Santee Cooper, pulled out of a $14 billion plan to expand a nuclear plant after spending $9 billion, lawmakers heard loud and clear from constituents that something needed to be done.

Two weeks ago, House members introduced six utility reform bills, which included rewriting regulations and regulators, cutting off multi-million-dollar utility payments and potentially requiring up to $1.7 billion in refunds, according to this story.

This week, the Constitutional Laws subcommittee approved the bills and forwarded them to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.  Anything approved by the committee will be ready for debate on the House floor when lawmakers return in January.

The full committee will meet 11 a.m. Tuesday in room 516 of the Blatt Building on the Statehouse grounds.

Here is a summary of the bills that will be considered:

H.4375 – Ratemaking – Would require the utility to pay for debt obligations, interest payments and shutdown costs associated with V.C. Summer; would halt the 18 percent rate payment on SCE&G consumers’ bills; and would authorize the state Public Service Commission to implement a new interim rate that protects ratepayers by lowering costs and removing all V.C. Summer fees;

H.4376 – Santee Cooper reform – Would end current board members’ terms; would create qualifications similar to updated PSC standards; would requires new or revised electric rates go through the PSC; and would ban abandonment costs from being added to new rates;

H.4377 – PSC reform – would ends terms of current commissioners; would remove qualification exemptions and would set new criteria; and would requires commissioners to thoroughly question parties before making a decision;

H.4378 – Creation of Utility Oversight Committee – Would replaces the Public Utilities Review Committee with a new 12-member board comprised of legislative and gubernatorial appointments;

H.4379 – ORS reform – Would create a utilities consumer advocate; would grant subpoena power to Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and the consumer advocate; and would remove a utility’s financial integrity from ORS’s concerns; and

H.4380 – Ratepayer refunds – would authorize the PSC to require SCANA to issue refunds to the ratepayers.

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