The first public comment period of the proposed SCE&G electric rate increase wraps up on Monday, but residents still have a chance to share their point of view.


Residents have until Monday to submit comments to the State Public Service Commission which will have final approval of the nearly 3 percent rate hike. Another comment period will follow the State Office of Regulatory Staff's review and audit of this proposed revision to be released by the end of July, said S.C. Sen. Tom Young Jr.


“It is absolutely critical that the public provides input during this process,” Young said.


SCE&G, a principal subsidiary of SCANA Corp., filed the request in late May for the increase under the provisions of the Base Load Review Act passed in 2007. This allows state regulated utilities to adjust rates annually during the construction of nuclear power plants in South Carolina to recover costs.


The construction of two nuclear electric-generating units near Jenkinsville is the reason behind rate hike, according to a press release from SCE&G which is working in conjunction with state-owned utility Santee Cooper on the effort.


This method of financing during construction lowers the cost of these nuclear units by $1 billion, and that reduces the amount its customers will pay through rates for related costs such as property taxes and insurance, according to SCE&G.


SCE&G estimates that will save its 673,000 customers receiving electricity services approximately $4 billion in electric rates over the life of the new units.


S.C. Sen. Shane Massey said he's supportive of nuclear energy, and he understands that those facilities are expensive, but he feels that there has to be a better way of handling the cost of these new units rather than asking for multiple increases.


“I think SCE&G really needs to justify this increase,” Massey said. “They haven't really given us a good reason.”


S.C. Rep. Roland Smith said the rate hike is bothersome.


He said there are many residents in South Carolina who live on a fixed budget and struggle daily to make ends meet. Some residents are out of work and others haven't seen a raise in years, he noted. Smith said those are things that should be taken into consideration before asking for another rate increase.


“I think it's ridiculous but I would never be surprised by what the public service division does,” Smith said. “Is it right? Absolutely not.”


If the proposed rate hike is approved, it will not go into effect until Oct. 30.


S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor re-emphasized the importance of public input. He was hoping that a public hearing was going to be held in the Aiken area but said residents' voices can still be heard.


“You can't be silent; you have to speak up,” Taylor said. “They will listen.”


Young said current comments should be emailed to cdscott@regstaff.sc.gov, and to file a letter of protest, visit www.psc.sc.gov.


Written comments can still be sent as long as they are postmarked by July 1. Those comments should be sent to the Public Service Commission of South Carolina, to the attention of the Clerk's Office, Post Office Drawer 11649, Columbia, SC 29211.


Comments regarding the State Office of Regulatory Staff's review will be accepted within one month after its report is filed. Those comments may also be submitted to the Public Service Commission.