Thursday, March 26, 2009

SC Regulators Deny Appeal Over Nuclear Reactors


An environmental group said Wednesday it may go to court to try to stop South Carolina's largest private utility from building two nuclear reactors after state regulators threw out the group's petition to block the project.

Bob Guild, an attorney who represents Friends of the Earth, said he would review the ruling by the Public Service Commission and could decide to appeal the issue to a circuit court. Guild said he did not know how long the group would have to file an appeal of the panel's decision.

Last month, commissioners approved a request by Scana Corp.-owned South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. to build the two 1,100-megawatt reactors along with Santee Cooper at the same site where the utilities currently run a reactor. The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station is near Jenkinsville, about 25 miles northwest from Columbia.

The utilities say the new reactors will be needed to meet future power demand. If the state approval stands, then the request will go to federal regulators, a process that could take several years.

SCE&G has said it wants to have the first reactor generating power by 2016, and the second in 2019. Rates have been projected to rise an average of 2.5 percent a year for the next 10 years to help pay the financing cost for SCE&G's portion of the $10 billion project.

Earlier this month, Friends of the Earth filed a request that the commission reconsider its approval, arguing that the law regulators used to approve the project is unconstitutional. In its petition, the group said SCE&G failed to demonstrate a need for the reactors or fully detail their environmental impact.

"The PSC's denial of the Friends of the Earth's petition ... reflects an underlying attitude by the Commission that is tilted in favor of utilities and against rate payers," Friends of the Earth spokesman Tom Clements said in a statement issued after the hearing."

Eric Boomhower, a spokesman for SCE&G, said the company expected the commission's decision would be upheld.

"We demonstrated through a comprehensive public hearing process that the need for new power is real and that our evaluation of generation options was thorough," Boomhower said.

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