Be careful about Dominion’s ‘Pay Day Loan’

By: By Sen. Mike Fanning - Contributing Columnist

“You are being offered a Payday Loan!

You will get a $1,000 check today… with one tiny catch.

By the time you finish making payments, 20 years from now, you’ll have paid your loan shark $5,000.”

Do you take the deal?

As an SC Senator, I still remember the wisdom of my mama: when you see something that looks too good to be true, it usually is. Always read the fine print!

Because this is the deal that Dominion Energy is offering SCANA (SCE&G) customers as they attempt to purchase/merge with SCANA, the utility provider for 1/3 of South Carolina. Dominion is pumping millions of dollars into selling this “deal” to legislators and citizens across South Carolina. Dominion has dozens of high paid lobbyists — including a former governor — on their payroll. They’re putting out daily full-page advertisements in every major newspaper in the state. They’re advertising across Google and Facebook and Twitter. And they’re running radio & TV commercials all across South Carolina. All promising the same thing, $1,000 checks to all SCE&G customers and a commitment to “lower” rates. WHAT. A. DEAL.

But, wait a minute. Why do you suppose this massive, out-of-state energy conglomerate feels the need to spend MILLIONS on lobbying, not to mention BILLIONS buying SCANA, just for the opportunity to give money away to South Carolinians? Now, I might not have an MBA like Dominion’s fat cat executives, but I don’t quite understand how they plan to tum charity into a profit.

Of course, as you might have expected, the devil is in the details. So now it’s time for Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.”

If Dominion’s purchase of SCANA is consummated, Dominion may very well cut $1,000 checks to over 750,000 SCE&G customers, allegedly to “pay customers back” for the BILLIONS they have spent on two abandoned nuclear reactors at the VC Summer Nuclear Plant in Fairfield County. Of course, some quick math shows that this offer comes nowhere close to repaying these consumer utility customers. Because here is what Dominion is NOT telling you:

(1) Over the past decade, ratepayers have actually paid 38% more than this $1,000 into this failed nuclear project;

(2) Dominion will CONTINUE to charge ratepayers 13% MORE than their monthly utility usage! Yep, they will inflate your utility bill by at least 13% for the next 20 YEARS!

(3) For a typical family, this is an additional $228 per year, for an additional $4,560 over the next 20 years!!

(4) Not only that, Dominion reserves the right to request ADDITIONAL rate hikes after the first 3 years.

And what are they planning to do with this 13%-inflated bill? Well, nothing.

They have no plans to complete the two abandoned nuclear reactors that are already half-way built. Dominion refuses to even “moth-ball” preserve this $9.5 billion investment, the biggest single investment in SC history… destroying any future possibility of either selling or salvaging work on this $9.5 billion investment.

Dominion has marched into Columbia, held a gun to our head, and want to “make us an offer that we can’t refuse.”

Normally the General Assembly would not have a role in the purchase of one private company by another. However, in their purchase contract, Dominion and SCANA wrote in a provision requiring action (or inaction) by the legislature. The contract attempts to tie the hands of the General Assembly as we try to right the wrong that was done, and states that if the legislature takes any action to reduce consumer utility rates (say, for instance, bringing the monthly nuclear “over-charges” down from 18% to zero), Dominion can walk away from the deal.

I understand Dominion’s desire to consummate a deal that will increase profits for their shareholders, just as I understand SCANA’s desire to consummate a deal that would increase profits for their shareholders. And this deal would certainly do both of those things. But, as a member of the South Carolina Senate, I can’t stand by as they do so at the expense of my constituents and my state. This deal allows two private companies to use the monopoly privileges they’ve been granted to profit on the backs of almost one million rate payers and SC citizens.

Unfortunately, we might not be able to fully repay these consumers for the billions they’ve already poured into the deep pockets of Big Energy. But we can and we must ensure that these consumers, our citizens, do not continue shouldering the burden for the bad decisions made by these executives, who want average South Carolinians to spend another two decades paying for already abandoned nuclear reactors.

So be careful accepting that check… this Payday Loan comes with a $4,500 catch!

Senator Mike Fanning represents District #17 in the SC Senate. He represents Chester, Fairfield, and York Counties (including the VC Summer Nuclear Plant in Jenkinsville). Senator Fanning was elected in 2016 and serves on the Senate V.C. Summer Nuclear Project Review Committee, in addition to the Senate’s Judiciary, Corrections/Penology, Agriculture, General, and Fish, Game, & Forestry committees.

By Sen. Mike Fanning

Contributing Columnist