SC Attorney General Sounds Off on Law Allowing Rate Hikes, Calling it ‘Constitutionally Suspect’

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)- South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released an opinion Tuesday that the law at the heart of the failed nuclear reactors that were being built by SCE&G and Santee Cooper is “constitutionally suspect.”

Four state House members requested the opinion on the Base Load Review Act, which lawmakers passed in 2007.

The 57 page opinion says the state Constitution allows the General Assembly to regulate publicly owned and private utilities “to the extent required by the public interest.”

“We looked how the law was implemented by the people who were using it,” Wilson said. “Our office came to the ultimate conclusion that the law is constitutionally suspect.”
The opinion concludes that, “It cannot be considered to be ‘in the public interest’ to charge ratepayers for capital costs of an unfinished and abandoned plant,” and, “It is not ‘in the public interest’ to increase the power bills of consumers who receive nothing in return.”

Solicitor General Bob Cook wrote the opinion, saying the Base Load Review Act must be presumed to be constitutionally valid and only a court can declare the act, or any part of it, unconstitutional. But the Attorney General’s Office opinion brings up potential constitutional issues that would likely arise if the law were challenged in court.

State lawmakers passed the Base Load Review Act as a way to allow SCE&G and Santee Cooper to raise rates before the nuclear plants were operating, in an effort to prevent larger rate hikes once they were online. However, the utilities have now abandoned plans to finish the reactors, meaning their customers have paid billions of dollars and gotten nothing in return.

Wilson told ABC Columbia News that ‘under state law a power plant must be “used and useful” to recover the cost of building it.

“Of course the whole thing imploded,” Wilson said. ” They got all the money and the ratepayers got nothing in return.”

Now Wilson and his team are taking action

“Our office is looking at all options,” Wilson said.

Wilson says his office got SLED to get involved with the investigation.

“Our attorneys are already waist deep in this issue,” Wilson said. “Reviewing it from multiple prospectives. Civil, criminal, regulatory, anyway that they can look at this. We’re looking at this from every single prospective.”

Wilson says they are at the beginning of a very long process, but they’re going to leave no stone unturned during this investigation.

As for if residents will get some kind of compensation for the money they gave for an unfinished plant, Wilson says that is a possibility.

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