Columbia, SC (WLTX) – Throughout the week South Carolina lawmakers asked tough questions of SCE&G, Santee Cooper, the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS).
This all stemmed from the abandonment of construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant.
The ORS was a part of the Wednesday hearing, answering questions from House Representatives about their role in the nuclear fall-out.
We asked the question, what does the ORS do?
"It is an impossible mission,” says Representative James Smith, D-Richland County.
The ORS was created by lawmakers in 2004. According to their website they represent the public interest of South Carolinians in regulation for major utility industries.
That means they look out for the consumers, but they also look out for the utility companies.
"They've got about five different masters they have to respond to,” says Smith. "They're supposed to look out for rate payers, also making sure that they are taking care of the financial interest of the utilities. They also must look at jobs and economic development. What we realized in this process is that they can't do all of those jobs at one time."
Rep. Smith agrees that there should be an independent group within the ORS. Something House Speaker Jay Lucas suggested.
"I suggest that you consider the creation of an office inside of the ORS that is devoted solely to the consumer and represents those interests before the PSC,” Lucas explained during Wednesday’s meeting.
The PSC listens to recommendations from the ORS before approving actions, like rate increases.
Smith says lawmakers can take some of the blame too for the passing of the base load review act. That bill allowed utility companies to raise rates to fund new nuclear plants during construction.
"The bill as it was created was ultimately built to fail and ended up in the situation we're in right now."
Lawmakers are expected to continue investigating the V.C. Summer nuclear fall-out and make sure the fall out doesn't lead to rate increases for consumers.