SCE&G Requests to Raise Rates AGAIN to Pay for MORE Dirty Energy

May 11, 2010 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

Cinco de Mayo is all about commemorating the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces during the French intervention in Mexico. It’s a celebration of the underdog! It’s a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride! OR it’s all about going to overcrowded Mexican restaurants, dancing to Mariachi music, and if you’re of age, taking advantage of margarita specials! But instead of doing any of those things, Kathryn Hilton and I (both students at USC Aiken) started setting up our game plan for presenting our case against the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G) in front of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The PSC is considering granting SCE&G’s request to raise their customers’ rates to pay for $700 million in government mandated “environmental” upgrades to its Wateree and Williams coal-fired power plants and a backup dam the utility owns near Columbia, as well as $300 million dollars to pay to cut down trees, pay shareholders, upgrade equipment, and for other expenses. Initially, the utility requested a rate increase of nearly 10%, but they’ve recently signed an agreement to reduce the rate increase request to about 7%.

The revised plan is under as much scrutiny as the initial one. This request is in addition to the rate increase that the PSC has already approved for the utility. Customers already have to pay a 2% increase in rates each year for the next decade to pay the $10 billion cost of building two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer plant north of Columbia. This means that ratepayers will pay for the nuclear reactor project in advance, even if the project is cancelled or never finished.

Illustration run by SC News (http://news.sc) to describe SCE&G's proposed rate incrase

The hearing was held at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, SC, and I’m surprised the amphitheater wasn’t completely packed with angry ratepayers. There were dozens of people there, and several people signed up to speak before the PSC.

Kathryn and I were the only speakers who noted SCE&G’s dirty energy practices; however, all of the speakers noted SCE&G’s dirty business practices. Even though SCE&G said that they postponed the rate increase by a year due to the dire economy of 2009, we’re not even halfway through 2010, and the economy has not fully recovered. A representative from AARP spoke on behalf of all those people on social security and fixed incomes fearing that they have to choose between food, electricity, or medicine. A single mother on disability, a young woman with two sick parents, and a teacher who doesn’t have health insurance spoke about how they simply could not afford to pay the increase, and they’re barely able to pay for the current rates. The PSC has never turned down SCE&G’s rate increase requests. One man asked the PSC just for once to have a conscience, and he reminded them that they are the Public Service Commission and that they should serve the public, and the public does not want this increase. A round of cheers and applause followed his speech.

When Kathryn spoke, she said, “this increase is reinforcing the use of archaic fossil fuels and allows SCE&G to sidestep their responsibility to customers and residents alike. Ratepayers and residents cannot afford the monetary and environmental costs SCE&G demands. The PSC and SCE&G need to create a plan to for a sustainable infrastructure and conservation efforts on an industrial scale.”

We all should have the right to live in clean, healthy, sustainable communities powered by clean, safe, renewable energy that will also make our country more energy independent and secure. Instead, SCE&G is irresponsibly investing OUR money in dirty coal and expensive nuclear energy resources, and nothing positive can come from that. SCE&G is not only pillaging the environment with its coal-fired plants, but SCE&G has a coal ash pond on the Congaree River, which is just upstream from our beloved Congaree National Park. SCE&G is not taking care of its customers, and if we had any other choice, most people would take their business elsewhere. However, we’re stuck with SCE&G, and we need to make sure that the company is held accountable for its actions, and we must make our voices heard. We may be the underdog, but there is massive power in numbers!

This was the third of four public rate hearings, with the previous two in the Charleston area. The fourth and final hearing will be in Columbia, SC on May 24th.  The Public Service Commission will make their final decision concerning the rate increase by mid-July. As citizens, it is our job to make sure that decision makers like the Public Service Commission are scrutinized for supporting questionable practices. Our safety and our futures call for it!

V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant in Jenkensville, SC

As I was writing this blog, my electricity flickered for a moment, and I freaked out, afraid that my computer may not recover it. Now, I’m paranoid that SCE&G is watching me! Because Kathryn and I spoke at the hearing in Aiken, we are not permitted to speak at another hearing concerning this rate increase. South Carolina youth are coming together from across the state for a summit May 21-23rd in Columbia, SC to build leadership skills and learn about state, regional, and national environmental issues. During the summit, Kathryn and I will lead a workshop on how to speak at a public hearing, and we’ll use our experience in this case to help others put together statements if they are staying for the May 24th hearing. If you’d like more information on this summit or if you’d like to come support us or make a testimony at the May 24th hearing, please contact SEN’s South Carolina Organizer, Jenna, at jenna@climateaction.net. We’ll be sure to get you all the information you’ll need!

Field Hearing: May 24, 6 p.m. at the S.C. Public Service Commission, 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia

Formal hearing: May 24-27,10:30 a.m., 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia

Final decision: July 15

Written by Lam Le, a student at USC Aiken

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Entry filed under: coal, southcarolina, southern energy network.

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