They came wearing everything from Wrangler blue jeans to dress suits, but for dozens of angry South Carolina Electric and Gas customers who addressed the governing body that will determine whether a 9.5% rate hike being proposed by the utility company goes into effect, the message was clear: Now is not the time.
“What kind of timing is this?” said the Rev. Joanne Brown of Summerville, addressing the S.C. Public Service Commission during a public hearing at Summerville Town Hall on Monday.
Brown said her church is already routinely subsidizing electric bills, and that any increase would mean an added hardship in a tough economic environment.
“It’s a burden,” she said.
More than 170 people packed into the Summerville Town Council chamber in protest of the increase that would eventually cost customers about $140 annually on average. The spikes would come in three stages of about 3% each. The first would hit in July, followed by additional rate increases in January and July of next year.
A formal hearing will be held by the commission May 24-27, and a final ruling on the increases is expected by mid-July.
On Monday, a line of discontented SCE&G customers filed past the commission, sharing stories of disabilities, caring for down-on-their luck relatives and staring at ballooning bottom lines.
“I’m not an eloquent speaker,” said Ladson resident Carol Cooke. “But how dare they” raise rates again?
The utility said the money it needs, totaling about $1 billion, would go toward $700 million already spent on federally mandated environmental and safety initiatives, $270 million for the agency’s transmission and distribution system and the rest for miscellaneous costs, such as $7 million for tree trimming.
But customers were unmoved, citing large profits recorded by SCE&G — which is owned by SCANA Corp. — in recent years and calling for an end to the utility’s monopoly. The night’s overriding theme, however, was a customer base struggling under the weight of a sagging economy and dreading another blow to their wallets.
Heyward Hutson of Summerville said that he paid more than $2,100 in electric bills between December and March.
“I just can’t afford to pay it,” said Norman Timmons of Bowman.
The commission is set for round two public feed back starting at 6 tonight at the International Longshoreman Association hall in Charleston. The final pair of hearing will be held in May in Graniteville and Columbia, with a formal hearing held in Columbia May 24-27.
More information on the increases can be found at: SCE&G.com.
Hearing Schedule: When: Tuesday, 6 p.m. Where: International Longshoreman’s Association Address: 1142 Morrison Drive, Charleston
When: May 6, 6 p.m. Where: Aiken Technical College Amphitheater, 2276 Jefferson Davis Highway, Graniteville
When: May 24, 6 p.m. Where: S.C. Public Service Commission, 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia
Formal hearing When: May 24-27, 10:30 a.m. Where: 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia
I attended and spoke at this meeting. It was a real revelation into how difficult this time is for South Carolinians. The board seemed genuinely surprised by the average electric bills SCE & G customers are paying and how much of a hardship it is. Just as all other businesses are doing, SCE & G should also be expected to operate within their budget. However, they do not do so. They continue to put their hands out to an already overburdened public to ask for more. Additionally, how can SCE & G say that the average household bill is $130. Excuse me?!!! Who are they polling? It was a welcome opportunity to be able to hear the public's testomonies and get the accurate picture instead of the benign situation SCE & G is portraying.
27 Apr 2010
I totally agree with the comment above, and glad to hear so many showed up to voice their concerns! And they want us to pay for TREE TRIMMING???!!!! Has anyone noticed they way they BUTCHER every tree on the street, while our cities have tree ordinances in place that would fine us if WE did the same???!!!
27 Apr 2010
Are you kidding me? $2100 for 4 months of electricity? Turn off your TV once in a while. There is no reason to use over $500 in electricity a month. If people just cut down their usage then constant upgrades and new equipment might not be needed. Quit crying and take some responsibility.
27 Apr 2010
EXACTLY! Who are they polling? I pay, on average, $250 a month. I am single, live in a ONE bedroom house & keep my thermostadt set at 70 year round. "HOW DARE THEY?" is correct! GREED. That sums up corporate America.
27 Apr 2010
Wow! Considering they reported great profits for 2009, how can they justify sticking to us again?
They increased rates in Spring 2009 by 2.44%. Now 1 year later, they want an additional 9.5% increase for Summer 2010. This is in addition to a 10-year / 10% rate increase for a new nuclear plant.
SCEG needs to lean-up operations and do more with less, just like the rest of us.
P. H. Ewen
28 Apr 2010
You people should rail against grocery stores and gasoline companies. Those have been my biggest expense increases the last few years. Is ignorance so blissful that your refuse to educate yourselves with truth?
29 Apr 2010
I totally agree with all the discontent about SCE&G, does anyone realize that the CEO of SCE&G is one of the highest paid CEOs in SC and that our rates are among the highest in the nation. Lets hear how SCE&G can justify that. I wished that they could just be honest and not let greed rule their lives and ours.
10 May 2010
We have the "FAT CATS of WALL STREET" in NEW YORK and now we have the "FAT CATS OF SCE&G". When will they stop, I have lived here for 15 years (transplant) and over the years have seen this company monopolize their position. I do believe that their reasoning is unacceptable. I look at it this way, over the years they have made billions of dollars from their customers and with all the thousands of transplant who come here to live over the years has added to the economy especially to SCE&G because electricity and gas is a neccesity. The service has not improved, my area of lights still go out rather a storm, snow (recently),or someone driving into a pole etc. So that leaves me to believe that the money isn't being spent to improve the service just to fatten pockets. So, should they get an increase my answer is still as it was in the past NO! They have the money to fix whatever they are trying to fix. Adding a burden to us is not to improve service but to fatten the wallets of the "FAT CATS OF SCE&G!"