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'The problem is bad:' Lawmaker warns of upcoming spike in electricity bills

(WPDE)

Until now, many Grand Strand and Pee Dee electricity users have avoided the worst of the fallout from the failed nuclear reactor project in Fairfield County.

People who get their electricity from Santee Cooper, or a co-op that gets its electricity through Santee Cooper, are only paying a small premium for construction costs right now, according to State Representative Tim McGinnis (R - Carolina Forest).

But McGinnis told a small crowd at the Carolina Forest Recreation Center Wednesday night that higher fees are coming.

"You guys can tell people when they start complaining about their power bills in about six, seven, eight months, 'I knew about this. I knew this was coming, and let me tell you the problem is bad,'" he warned.

Santee Cooper bills, McGinnis explained, have been kept artificially low, but the state-owned utility has to start paying off the debt from the project, which it had a 45 percent stake in.

He said decisions have been delayed while a new Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities in the state, is appointed.

McGinnis said the old commission members were kicked out during the fallout from the nuclear project shutting down.

RELATED: S.C. utilities to stop building billion-dollar nuke reactors

He said he wasn't sure how high premiums would go, naming percentages in the low to mid double digits that audibly shocked the audience, before quickly clarifying that he was only guessing.

He also said he wasn't exactly sure when the spike would happen.

McGinnis placed most of the blame on South Carolina Electric & Gas executives, which had a controlling stake in the project, telling audience members that he expected most to earn prison time for their role in the disaster.

"As bad as all of this sounds, it's worse," McGinnis recalled another lawmaker saying, when filling him in on what happened.

SCE&G customers already pay an 18 percent premium for construction costs.

McGinnis predicted that the issue would be the major focus of the next legislative session, which starts in January.

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