Columbia, SC (WLTX, AP) - A bill that allowed customers' power bills to go up to pay for a failed nuclear plant project is "constitutionally suspect," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson says.
Wilson released an opinion from his office Wednesday that was written by Solicitor General Bob Cook.
In the 57 plus page opinion, Cook outlines potentially problems with 2007's Base Load Review Act, the law passed by the state legislature that allows utilities to raise rates upfront to raise money to pay for large scale construction projects.
The law has come under scrutiny after the failure to build two new nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County. Santee Cooper and SCE&G were partners in the multi-billion dollar project.
The attorney general's office said the following about Cook's report:
"The opinion points out that, under South Carolina law, a power plant must be “used and useful” to recover the cost of building it. However, under the BLRA, “… the utility may still recoup, through rate increases, its capital costs, construction costs and a return on investment for utility investors. Yet, consumers receive nothing in return.” That provision may be seen by a court as an unconstitutional “taking” of property for private use, which violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against private property being taken without due process and a similar provision in the South Carolina Constitution."
A bipartisan trio of lawmakers recently asked prosecutors to study the 2007 law.
The companies abandoned the venture earlier this year, after charging more than $2 billion to ratepayers.
The state Supreme Court rejected a 2014 challenge to the law. Attorney general's opinions carry no legal heft of their own but generally represent the position of the state.