NEWBERRY — The SCANA and Dominion Deal was the main topic of conversation during the Newberry County Farm Bureau’s Legislative Banquet.
Senator Ronnie Cromer said back in 2007 the legislature passed the Base Load Review Act (which would give the state two new reactors), and at the time they made the decision based on the best information they had. The information at that time showed that fossil fuel prices had gone up, and it was cheaper to produce electricity with nuclear plants.
“Well, SCE&G had the bright idea that they could build two at the same time. I don’t think we really needed two, now we look back on it, and things have changed. Methane is as cheap as it can be because we’ve developed this thing called fracking, where you can get a lot more of the natural gas without as much expense,” he said. “It would have saved the rate payers money in the long run, if we had not had a problem with the people in the top administration, they were not good leaders, as it turns out. They were the ones that caused this debacle, not the ordinary employees of SCE&G.”
When it comes to the Dominion deal, Cromer says everyone has an opinion.
“SCANA said they were going to take 50 years and continue to charge the same rates that they’ve been charging to pay off that debt for the next 50 years. Dominion said they’d do it in 20, over the next 20 years it will cost the average rate payer about $4,000.”
Cromer said the Senate is looking at some things they can do.
“Every year we have to pass a sine die resolution, that is the date the legislature ends their session, normally it’s the second Thursday of May. Well this year we decided we are going to extend sine die, do it the day before the election,” he said. “Reason we wanna do that, right now SCANA and Dominion are playing a waiting game. They know we can’t reduce the rates going forward right now. They’ve got a report, before the Public Service Commission, for them to rule on, but the PSC is having to do some studying before they can actually rule on the report.”
The way the law is written, 90 days after sine die, the request SCANA put in automatically becomes law, and Cromer said SCANA and Dominion know that.
“They are sitting back waiting, they plan to merge maybe sometime in the fall. By us putting sine die out to November, we’ll be back in the session before that deadline occurs, and we can take action at the time if we have to,” he said.
Rep. Rick Martin said in the House they have repealed the Base Load Review Act, an Act he said SCANA took advantage of, and through the PSC they kept increasing rates.
“There were reviews done that they knew years ago they weren’t going to be able to compete the project, but they kept going before the PSC and asking for rate increases. Over a 10 year period they’ve had 10 rate increases to a tune of a little over 18%,” Martin said. “We pulled back BLRA, still has to go through the Senate, we didn’t take out the whole BLRA. We clawed back the rate, from approximately 18% all the way back to zero.”
County Administrator Wayne Adams highlighted 2017, which included two new industries Samsung and MM Technics, and also talked about 2018.
“For 2018 and beyond, we need a commercial economy that grows from an infusion of higher wage jobs and great disposable income. The foundations for this are investments in infrastructure, workforce education, industrial development sites and industrial recruitment,” he said. “We also need to invest in ourselves as citizens, in our civic ability to engage the challenges that face us. The Chamber of Commerce is now providing an opportunity through Leadership Newberry County, for future leaders to immerse themselves in such important local issues as government, education, infrastructure, economic development, recreation, law enforcement – virtually every aspect of our shared life as a community.”
Superintendent Jim Suber gave an update on the teacher shortage that is impacting the country.
“We are very fortunate in Newberry County, we filled every position we had open last year. I’m not going to say it wasn’t a challenge, but we filled them. I think one of the reasons is because we’ve built a culture and an environment that is welcoming,” he said. “We are going to put the best person we can in front of those children every day.”
Sheriff Lee Foster discussed spoofing, and the bill that would make it illegal.
“My complements to Rep. Martin for filing a bill against spoofing. Spoofing is really a big problem, we take a lot of calls on a lot of different things, but I guarantee you the rising calls we get are from people calling and complaining they got a call from the IRS, threatening them for owing taxes,” Foster said. “They’ve gotten smart, they use a technology called spoofing, put any number in a telephone and make it show up on your caller ID as anything they want.”