State regulators approve Dominion, SCANA merger

Formerly-proposed $1,000 checks for average SCE&G customers off the table
Protesters interrupted Friday's meeting of the Public Service Commission in Columbia after a...
Protesters interrupted Friday's meeting of the Public Service Commission in Columbia after a commissioner motioned to approve a merger between Dominion Energy and SCE&G's parent company, SCANA Corporation. (Source: Live 5)(Live 5)
Updated: Dec. 14, 2018 at 5:26 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/AP) - The Public Service Commission approved a merger between Virginia-based Dominion Energy and SCANA Corporation, the parent company of South Carolina Electric and Gas.

The roughly $15 billion cash and stock bid from Virginia-based Dominion Energy to buy SCANA Corporation is one of two major decisions expected from Friday’s hearing. The other involves how much to cut rates for 737,000 South Carolina Electric & Gas customers who have already paid more than $2 billion for a pair of nuclear reactors at the VC Summer Nuclear Station abandoned during construction.

The deal approved by commissioners would cut the average customer’s bill by approximately $22 per month. But the average SCE&G customer will not receive a check for $1,000, which was proposed earlier. Instead, customers will be paying for the failure of the project over the next 20 years.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says state regulators did their best to resolve a mess in approving a merger between a troubled South Carolina utility and Virginia-based Dominion Energy.

McMaster on Friday expressed confidence the South Carolina Public Service Commission “vigorously sought to make the best of a bad situation” in trying to determine how to deal with the fallout from last summer’s abandonment of the construction of two new nuclear reactors.

Those customers have already paid more than $2 billion for the reactors. But during the summer of 2017, privately-owned SCANA and its minority partner, state-owned Santee Cooper, abandoned the project after a decade of planning and building following the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse.

Commissioners say this has been a difficult case because of the publicity and scale of it, and say it has been especially challenging to navigate because of the legal issues at hand. They did make clear, though, they believe SCE&G was deceptive and withheld important information about the issues that lead to the overall failure of the nuclear project.

But commissioners decided not to adopt an amendment ruling that SCE&G lied to them about the project in order to get rate increases.

At least five of the seven members of the Public Service Commission said ahead of Friday’s vote that they supported the merger.

Dominion Energy and SCANA Corporation issued statements Friday afternoon after the Public Service Commission’s decision.

“Dominion Energy and SCANA are pleased with today’s action of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina after an open, thorough and inclusive public process. We look forward to reviewing an order when it’s issued,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Dominion Energy serves nearly six million customers in 19 states. The company, headquartered in Richmond, says it is one of the nation’s leading solar operators and intends to reduce its carbon intensity by 50 percent by 2030. SCANA Corporation, is headquartered in Cayce, South Carolina.

“Dominion Energy is encouraged by the Commission’s vote and awaits an order to review prior to making a final decision to close the merger with SCANA," Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell, II said. "We are pleased with the opportunity to increase our presence in communities served by SCANA, expand our involvement in charitable giving and implement an EnergyShare-like program in South Carolina to assist low-income, elderly, disabled and veteran customers.”

“We are pleased that today’s decision brings us one step closer to a final resolution and the certainty that stakeholders have been hoping for. We look forward to reviewing the details of the Commission’s final written order when it is issued,” SCANA CEO Jimmy Addison said.

The hearing at the Statehouse in Columbia was interrupted briefly when protesters held up signs and began chanting after a commissioner motioned to approve the merger.

The protesters, chanting, “We want solar for a change; Dominion buyout, more of the same,” were removed from the room and threatened with trespassing charges if they returned.

Protesters have been removed from hearing room and property and threatened with trespassing charge if they return after they erupted in chanting after one commissioner motioned to approve Dominion and SCANA merger.

Posted by Kaitlin Stansell - Live 5 News on Friday, December 14, 2018

Commissioners took a short recess while the protesters were cleared out.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates

Copyright 2018 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.